Blue Bomber Report Record: 3–15–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Blue TO-DO list

Off-season needs to be productive if next season is to be successful

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And so, yeah, that happened.

Now what?

With the Toronto Argonauts capturing the 2012 Grey Cup with a win over the Calgary Stampeders at Rogers Centre on Sunday, the short semi-official hiatus at the offices of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers has officially come to an end.

The CFL directs teams not to engage in any player or personnel moves in the lead up to the Grey Cup, so as not to distract attention from the big show. But the show is over now and the Bombers have work to be done -- lots and lots of work to be done -- if they're going to turn the 6-12 laughingstock that was 2012 into a viable contender worthy of the $185 million taxpayers have pumped into a new stadium set to open (no, really, we mean it this time) in 2013.

Word from the Bombers front office on Monday is that the club is not anticipating making any major announcements this week, but they probably won't want to wait much longer than that to tick at least a couple of jobs off a long list this winter.

Here's a roadmap to Winnipeg's 2012-13 off-season:

 

Hire an assistant general manager

 

With longtime AGM Ross Hodgkinson getting sacked earlier this month, the Bombers are in the market for a right-hand man to GM Joe Mack.

The talk is the Bombers want someone who's got a deep background in the CFL and a keen eye for Canadian talent and the carrot they're dangling is whoever gets the job will be groomed to be Mack's ultimate replacement.

There was a sighting in Toronto during Grey Cup Week of Bombers CEO Garth Buchko having lunch with TSN analyst -- and the country's consumate Canadian draftologist -- Duane Forde. There's also been a few other names tossed around -- including current Bombers special team coach and draft specialist, Kyle Walters.

Bottom line: Whoever the Bombers hire, they want to do it quickly because they've got so many other critical decisions to make in the next couple months. "I think they (CEO Garth Buchko, Mack and the Bombers board) would like to get that resolved as soon as we can because that way it's easier for us to move forward as an organization," head coach Tim Burke said Monday. "Obviously, you'd like that person in the position as soon as possible so that everyone can start pulling together and working toward the same goal."

 

Hire a defensive co-ordinator

Conventional wisdom is Casey Creehan -- former Bombers linebackers coach and longtime confidante of Burke -- would be Burke's first choice if he is available.

But Creehan is at this moment still gainfully employed as the DC in Hamilton and Free Press sports columnist Gary Lawless reported over the weekend that Creehan was at his desk in Hamilton last week working away as though it's business as usual. Take that for what it's worth, but know this: If the Cats fire Creehan in the coming weeks -- Hamilton had the worst defence in the league by many measures -- expect him to quickly end up back here.

The optics of that might be a little shaky -- fans will wonder why Winnipeg is so eager to hire a guy who just got fired after one season in charge of Hamilton's defence. Burke will counter that the Hamilton experience was anomalous and that Creehan was a key ingredient in some great defences the two men presided over in Montreal and Winnipeg.

Winnipeg's options? Former Bombers defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall is also looking for work right now and would seem to be a good fit. But the Bombers might get competition for Marshall's services if the Alouettes -- as some are suggesting -- fire their defensive co-ordinator, Jeff Reinebold, in the coming weeks. Marshall is believed to have interviewed for the Montreal DC job last winter too, but was passed over for Reinebold.

Bottom Line: Burke said Monday that league rules prohibit him from not only talking to Creehan, he cannot even talk about Creehan. Burke says he has three names on a short list and will make approaches this week in hopes of having a new DC in place by Christmas. Asked if Marshall was among his interviewees, Burke laughed. "He might be."

 

Paging a new quarterback

So how do you like Kevin Glenn now?

The Stampeders QBö and exiled former Bomber -- perfectly encapsulated in the last two weekends everything that is great about Kevin Glenn (a sterling West final) and everything that will drive you crazy about Kevin Glenn (an abominable Grey Cup).

Yes, Argos defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones designed a masterful defence against Calgary on Sunday. But the bottom line is Glenn threw a Pick 6 (his second in as many weeks) and Toronto defenders dropped three other easy interceptions. On the other hand, Glenn went 11-6 as Calgary's starter in 2012.

Whether he's the solution to Winnipeg's quarterback problems, five years after he was run out of town the first time, will be a major decision the Bombers front office will have to make. And if they do decide to pursue Glenn, they're going to have to make it worthwhile for Calgary because Glenn is still under contract heading into next season.

Their other options? Montreal backup Adrian McPherson and B.C. Lions backup Mike Reilly are both eligible to become free agents in February, but both men are untested and would be a gamble.

While Reilly seems to be the darling of a lot of fans and wiseguys right now, consider this: Reilly has thrown the grand total of 77 passes in his entire professional career. If somebody tries to tell you Reilly is a lock as the solution to Winnipeg's QB problems, you should also ask that person for the numbers to this coming Friday's 6/49 draw.

And McPherson? Same thing applies to a guy who has thrown a total of 145 passes in 5 CFL seasons.

Bottom line: With Reilly and McPherson, the problem is you don't know exactly what you're getting. With Glenn, the problem is the opposite.

 

Potential free agents (ours)

There's 11 of them, including six starters on defence: defensive linemen Fernand Kashama, Bryant Turner, and Jason Vega, defensive backs Johnny Sears and Jonathan Hefney, linebacker Marcellus Bowman and non-starter defensive back Deon Beasley, plus slotback Clarence Denmark, running backs Chris Garrett and Carl Volny and quarterback Justin Goltz.

Burke said Mack has had at least preliminary discussions with all of them. "I don't think you're going to see any wholesale change from us... I'd like to see all of them come back if we can," said Burke. "But it will be hard to sign them all because we have other needs as well. We're going to look at people in the free agent market. So it depends down the line how much money we have left under the salary cap. Those guys who hold out a long time, they're going to be out of luck."

 

Potential free agents (theirs)

Mack has gotten slammed the last two seasons for not even so much as dipping a toe into free- agent waters. Expect him to make some kind of move this time around, if for no other reason than to quiet the criticism.

In addition to the obvious void at quarterback, an experienced SAM linebacker would be ideal, some help in the secondary wouldn't hurt and no one will ever turn down some extra help on the offensive line.

B.C. Lions offensive lineman Jovan Olafioye -- who was just named the CFL's top lineman -- might be the biggest prize of all when he becomes a free agent in mid-February, but that's complicated by the fact Olafioye has made clear he intends to take a second shot at making the NFL before he even considers the CFL again.

 

Making the second pick count

Burke says he'd love to land either an offensive or defensive lineman with Winnipeg's second overall pick in next year's CFL entry draft.

He'll have plenty to choose from. According to the September rankings put out by the CFL scouting bureau, Regina defensive lineman Stefan Charles and Calgary defensive lineman Linden Gaydosh are ranked 1st and 2nd respectively in their draft class. There's also a couple of highly regarded offensive linemen in McMaster's fourth ranked Matt Sewell and Eastern Michigan's sixth ranked Cory Watman. Third ranked Oregon linebacker Bo Lokombo and fifth ranked Calgary running back Steven Lumbala round out the top six.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 27, 2012 D3

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