If you can say anything about a team and a season with 15 games remaining, it is the East Division is a wild-turkey shoot and this defence of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers is far too good to be wasted.
While there is more than ample time for a team to get streaky and separate itself from the pack, the talent in the East, or lack thereof, appears to be uniform. Anthony Calvillo has found his kryptonite, and its name is Alouettes head coach Dan Hawkins. The Argonauts may be the defending champions, but they are still the .500 regular-season team they were in 2012. The Tiger-Cats have figured out it doesn't matter who your defensive co-ordinator is if your players aren't very good, and the Bombers are back in the offensive doldrums they started the 2012 campaign with.
So while it may be a stretch for Bomber fans to be enthralled with their squad's latest performance against a defence with more holes in it than the Zimmerman case, the fact remains the team is tied with everybody else for first place, and all of their divisional rivals have just as many blemishes as they do. So hooray for mediocrity.
The silver lining of this playbook, though, is if the Bomber offence can even start pulling some of their own weight, this team has the most potential for success out of all their rivals, because of how good their defence appears to be. If there is one thing in the East Division that jumps off the page at you, and has been consistent over three games, it is this Bomber defence. I challenge you to find another phase, on any football team east of Saskatchewan, that is playing at the level this group is right now.
While it is unrealistic to expect them to stay at this pace -- the Blue defenders are still on the highway to a hundred sacks -- if they hit 75 they will be the stuff of legends. The back end of this group is only vulnerable when they make mental mistakes, and the number of players they get to the football makes them a punishing and effective squad of tacklers. While mere mortals as individuals, when united, defensive co-ordinator Casey Creehan and head coach Tim Burke have wonder-twin powers working under the same roof. Frankly, defences of this calibre don't come around all that often in Winnipeg and to not capitalize on their excellence this season would be a crime.
While I'm not the sort who applauds knee-jerking through decision-making time, something needs to be done, and sooner rather than later, to elevate this offence to the approximate levels of their counterparts.
Which brings us to the great chicken and egg deliberation: What came first? A bad player, or a bad scheme? In 2012, the offence started slowly and picked up speed. With the rate of progression they displayed, the optimists among us reasoned if only they had had more games, they would have achieved full-throttle. Though the offence wasn't broken, they chose to fix it in the off-season. It was changed to maximize the effectiveness and safeguard the play of their starting pivot.
So is it the play of Buck Pierce that has now regressed, or is it that the reworking of the offence hasn't worked? It is possible the new system is taking as long as the first one to synchronize? If it is, by the time they fire on all cylinders, will it be too late all again?
It is one thing to underachieve and have all phases of your football team fail to live up to expectations. Yet when one phase appears to be well positioned for prime time and is of the calibre to redirect the fortunes of your team, they need to be complemented in short order or their efforts will be in vain.
Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays and the days following game days in the Free Press.