There are two widely accepted theories explaining the difference between the 10-8 Grey Cup runners-up of 2011 and the 6-12, tied for last-place team of 2012.
First and foremost, is the fact Buck Pierce started 16 games in 2011, as opposed to only seven in 2012. For further discussion on this topic, feel free to peruse any of the 1,300 stories written about the team in 2012 where this was a focal point of conversation.
The second school of thought is that the team simply got too young, and with the direction the roster is currently headed, one has to wonder whether that may still be a factor that should concern fans.
If you look at the roster as it stands today, out of the 66 players listed, there are only five over the age of 30. Buck Pierce is 32, Ian Logan is 30, Steve Morley is 31, Terrance Edwards is 33, and Chris Cvetkovic is 35. As we know, Cvetkovic is the team's long snapper, Buck may be a starter in Week 1 or possibly not play at all, and with the signing of Cauchy Muamba last week, the writing may be on the wall for Logan, as I've yet to see a roster carry two Canadian safeties who both earn significant salaries.
So that potentially leaves one or two full-time starters on offence and defence in their 30s.
In 2011, while it bears mentioning there were only five players on the roster during the Grey Cup that were 30 or older, the average age of that team was older than the one in 2012 by about a year, which was documented (2012) as the youngest in the CFL with an average age of 25.8.
A youth movement, of course, is not always a bad thing. Younger players heal and recover faster, are generally more explosive and athletic than their older counterparts, and can bring an infectious level of enthusiasm often absent in jaded and cynical veterans.
They are wide-eyed, naive, and play with a level of reckless abandon.
They are also considerably less expensive.
Furthermore, there are positions in football like tailback, where having a player on the wrong side of 30 is now frowned upon in most circles. Younger backs have that extra bounce and thirst for contact. Pro football is a meat grinder, and it requires constant supplies of fresh flesh to keep it going.
Those of us that were around for it, saw the opposite of the youth movement in the Dave Ritchie and Brendan Taman era. While 2001, '02, and '03 remain the three best regular-season records I was a part of in 11 years in Winnipeg, as the veterans overstayed their welcome and usefulness the wins gradually dropped from a record-breaking 14 to 12, and then 11. It was still a three-year span in the CFL, however, where the Bombers won more regular-season games than any other franchise.
While it would be interesting to know what the average ages of the last 10 teams to win both the Grey Cup and Super Bowl were, this statistic isn't even necessarily the best indication of how a team may perform. While it is commonly assumed the teams with the right mix of young and old fare the best, I would dare say the average number of years of experience each player has on the roster is even more critical, and for 2012, at an average of 2.0 CFL years per player, the Bombers were once again dead-last in the league.
With age comes experience, maturity, patience, perspective and often a capacity to lead. Mature players can provide direction and reel in those that require it.
Under general manager Joe Mack's guidance, if the Bombers run in two-year cycles like we all hope they will (the improvement from 2010 to '11 was tremendous), then 2013 should be an exponential step up from what we saw last year.
When veteran players like Jason Vega (NFL), Marcellus Bowman, and now potentially Ian Logan, are lost on an already youthful and inexperienced team, however, the fight to buck last year's trend may be just that much more difficult.
Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays and game days in the Free Press.