The apologists will say this was close and the Bombers could have easily won this game. The realists, such as head coach Tim Burke, who can’t afford to deal in what-ifs, will see it for what it was. The 11th loss of the season.
The Bombers, who are now 4-11, did some good things in Saturday’s 32-21 loss to the Calgary Stampeders. But no matter how one tries to spin this, turning the ball over eight times is the mark of a loser.
"Obviously, the key to our loss is turnovers. I’ve never been around a team that’s turned the ball over seven times and won a game. The two turnovers at the beginning of the game spotted them 14 points, and so we’re playing from behind right from the get-go," Burke spat.
"Then the other thing is, I don’t know how many interceptions we threw in the red zone — three or four, I can’t remember — but we come away with absolutely no points and the margin of victory is out of hand at the end of the game when it should have been close."
When asked about positives, the coach quickly cut down the question.
"That’s not a moral victory," he said.
The players were just as uninterested in a shiny lining.
"We had plenty of chances to win this game. Almost too many chances to win and keep life in our season," said linebacker Marcellus Bowman, who finished the game with 12 tackles. "But each time, we found a way to lose. They made plays, but we provided opportunity for them to make plays — fumbles, interceptions, penalties, letting them drive the ball down the field. Shoot, three phases of the game you need to win, and we lost all three of them."
Football players, at the end of the day, can distill the truth, and in the case of this team, the one absolute is they are not good enough to compete.
The Bombers have three games left on the schedule, and but for a miracle won’t be participating in the playoffs. Burke isn’t interested in any such talk and instead is about to begin challenging people for their jobs.
Quarterback Joey Elliott, who threw four interceptions, three of them in the end zone, will be under the microscope when Burke gets his eyes on the game film.
"I thought in the middle of the field (Joey) played well. I thought in the red zone he played poorly," said Burke, who was told Elliott said he’d made just three mistakes on the day.
"I’ll probably see more, yeah, but I can’t think of any more off the top of my head. But, yeah, the mistakes are obvious. They’re called interceptions."
Elliott is an inexperienced quarterback still learning, but Burke says the youth excuse is getting tired.
"I would think at this point he should be better than what he did in the red zone (Saturday)," the coach said, before being asked how he would deal with Elliott.
"I can’t fine a guy for playing poorly, but the thing is, if guys are perennial turnover machines, then they can’t be put in that position to play."
Everyone in Bomberland is now fighting for future employment, including Burke, and he’s not about to let his players escape scrutiny. Demond Washington fumbled a punt early in Saturday’s game and Burke says that will be his last chance in that facet of the game.
"Yup. And you won’t see him returning any more punts. That’s it. If I allowed that to continue, everybody in the city would go 'I’m an idiot'," Burke said. "So I’m not going to let it continue. Remember what you said, you can fine ’em, you can run ’em, you can do whatever you want, but sooner or later, if they’re not getting it done, they gotta go. So that’s the way it is."
Burke’s words could sum up the feelings of many where this entire team is concerned.
The Bombers are broken. Burke knows it and the players know it. They need repairs. Lots of them.
The questions are now about tomorrow and how to solve this mess. And who will do the solving.