WITH a full off-season to plan and a vote of confidence from the new head coach, Marcel Bellefeuille will prep the Bombers attack with a whole new look.
Bellefeuille, who joined the Bombers in the middle of this last miserable season, will lead that charge, as the team confirmed Tuesday he would stay on as offensive coordinator. And there is so much work to do, out with the old and in with the new.
"There will be pretty much a complete overhaul of the offence," Bellefeuille said in a conference call on Wednesday. "I do have something in mind."
There were ideas and concepts that he was passionate about that resonated with me... It was like he read my notes'
Besides, the veteran CFL coach never really got a chance last season to show what he could do. He hopped on to the chaotic Bombers in August, initially as a consultant alongside struggling OC Gary Crowton. It shocked exactly no one when, just six days later, the Bombers canned Crowton after a dismal 37-18 loss at home to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Bellefeuille took the reins and made what the Bombers' new head coach Mike O'Shea called "a valiant effort," though he never really had a chance to install his type of game. Still, perhaps it was a start.
"In terms of challenges last year, they were obviously evident," Bellefeuille said. "We couldn't change an offence halfway through... I did feel good about how we did compete, we did improve, our production did improve a little bit."
Of course, it wasn't just timing that strung Bellefeuille's hands. There were also the sloppy executions and the personnel problems, in particular the neon blinking question mark around the quarterback position. Max Hall improved as the year went on, but regularly looked unready for a full-time starter's role -- while Toronto Argonauts back-up Zach Collaros, who does, could be looking for a starting gig when free agency hits in February.
Though Bellefeuille neatly ducked the quarterback question, the Bombers are the only team in the CFL that doesn't have an answer already under contract.
"I feel like we can get better in every area," he said. "I'm very excited about how Max picked up his game, and started to be more productive. Obviously we'd like to get better at every position, and that will be an ongoing process."
In the meantime, the months ahead give Bellefeuille and freshly installed O'Shea a chance to dream up an offence. They plan to retain about 20 per cent of the concepts from last year's playbook and tweak once they have a better sense of what the roster will look like. The plan is to have it ready to go by spring mini-camp.
"Give Marcel a training camp with his own book and his own terminology, and you're going to see a markedly different result," O'Shea said.
The arrangement allows O'Shea, going into his rookie campaign as head coach and after just three seasons running special teams in Toronto, the benefit of experience. Although just four years O'Shea's senior, Bellefeuille has 15 more years of coaching experience, and has forgotten more about CFL offences than most folks ever know.
Most notably, Bellefeuille was a head coach in the CFL for three and a half seasons with the Ticats, a fact which will surely come in handy.
"That to me is going to prove invaluable," O'Shea said in the conference call on Wednesday. "I expect to spend a lot of time talking to him about the actual duties and the things I need to do as head coach. I'm going to lean on him extensively for that."
O'Shea has more hires to make yet, as he continues to search for a defensive coordinator. (The most common name that's surfaced is former Lions defensive coordinator Rich Stubler.) But he was anxious to get Bellefeuille's contract out of the way, as he saw many teams in the league hunting for talented OCs. After the two sat down to chat football, it was "an easy decision" to make, O'Shea said.
"There were ideas and concepts that he was passionate about that resonated with me, and resonated with the way I think offensive football in the CFL should be played," O'Shea said. "It was like he read my notes."