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Hooray for moral victories

That's all the Bombers bring out of yet another loss

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The optimists will call it progress. The pessimists will say it was just another loss. What football fans in Winnipeg, however, have to be wondering is what Blue Bombers CEO Garth Buchko and his board of directors were left thinking Monday night.


Was this the tipping point? Will long knives be sharpened? An emergency board meeting scheduled? A press conference hastily called? Or is it status quo and all will be quiet in Bomberland this week?

The Bombers fell to 1-5 and own last place in the East Division while sharing the league cellar with the Edmonton Eskimos after Monday's 27-20 loss to the B.C. Lions.

The Bombers were tied with the Lions after three quarters before allowing the game to get away in the fourth quarter as the home side put up 10 points against Winnipeg's three.

If moral victories are your thing there might be something to grab on to, but any clear-eyed observer of this team will see this for what it was. Another loss in a long and weary parade of defeats. This franchise is looking like a worn out dance marathon contestant. Wilted carnation, drooping stockings and fallen hairdo. Still moving? Sure, but not actually dancing.

With 11 days before the team's next game the decision makers plotting behind the scenes have an opportunity to effect change. Or they can stick to the current method of management, squeeze their legs together and hope.

GM Joe Mack has had his chance. It's over. Mack is not an effective GM

Hope something good will happen despite the obvious shortcomings of the organization and the team it currently fields.

Justin Goltz again displayed promise but also showed how much work he has ahead of him before he can be declared a legitimate starting quarterback in the CFL. Goltz, at best, is a project. It will be some time before a true assessment can be made on him.

But the organization has declared him its starter. In effect, they have also called this season one of rebuilding.

So if that's what this is, another season to learn on the job and grow young players into capable veterans, it's time to accept that fate and take advantage of it.

There are young people with potential in this organization. Give them the same chance Goltz is getting.

Don't fire anyone and pay them to go home with their only remaining duties consisting of checking their bank balance every two weeks. Re-deploy them. Egos won't be happy but I've got news for them. Neither are the people that own, support and truly make up this franchise. They've had enough. Hold the people responsible for this mess accountable. And then force them to help fix it.

GM Joe Mack has had his chance. It's over. Mack is not an effective GM. His teams are now 21-39 and his winning percentage sits at a bold .350. Bold in that it threatens to plummet below the .300 mark if a win doesn't show up like a fifty in a forgotten pair of jeans.

Mack, however, has skills the Bombers need. He has contacts in the NFL and can be valuable over the next six weeks as cuts are made down South and useful players flood the market.

Make Mack do what he should have been doing all along. Make him scout. Keep him in the U.S. watching players and filing reports and offering suggestions. But take the roster and decision-making out of his hands.

Assistant GM Kyle Walters may or may not be ready for the big chair. But what a chance to find out.

To be clear, it's not time to make Walters the next GM. But it is time for some fresh ideas. There's a dispersal draft coming in December which will have lasting impact on rosters around the league.

Quarterbacks and Canadians will be switching teams. The right plan can allow a team to make major improvement as teams richer in talent than the Bombers attempt to get some value for assets rather than just let them evaporate for nothing.

The wrong plan could damage a franchise for a decade.

Mack has shown two glaring weaknesses -- his lack of acumen where Canadian talent and quarterbacks are concerned. He can't be allowed to navigate the franchise through this paramount phase.

Give Walters the keys and see how he drives.

But don't stop with the top. Once again the Bombers offence proved weak, passing for 112 yards and no touchdowns. Co-ordinator Gary Crowton hasn't been able to spark this group. So give him some help.

Take the play calling out of Crowton's hands. Promote receivers coach Markus Howell to passing co-ordinator and give him play-calling responsibilities. He can't be worse, and if Crowton can check his ego and work with Howell for the betterment of the team, there's a chance for progress.

The off-season will provide strong CFL types such as Dave Dickenson, Khari Jones and Bobby Dyce opportunities as potential co-ordinators, but in the meantime why not develop Howell and see what he can cook up?

Or do nothing. Let the players take off for a week and return to the same plan and same people executing it.

Maybe it won't be a fifty found in those old jeans but a cheque for a grand that somehow didn't get cashed.

Or more likely, it'll be a puff of lint and a used ticket stub from a game back in the day the Bombers actually won.

Just to really remind you of what you're missing. Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 6, 2013 D3

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.


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