Blue Bomber Report Record: 6–3–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Crowton learns Canadian fast

New offensive co-ordinator digesting CFL, drawing raves

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Gary CROWTON has a football resumé the likes of which we haven't seen much of around these parts:

-- Offensive co-ordinator of the Chicago Bears when they set a franchise record in 1999 for passing yards.

-- Head coach of Brigham Young University in 2001 when they led the nation in offence and scoring.

-- Offensive co-ordinator at LSU in 2007 when they won a national championship and set school records in scoring and yards in a season.

So not surprisingly, the universal consensus of players and coaches around Crowton in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers training camp this week is that he is going to give a badly needed spark to the Winnipeg offence in his role as the new offensive co-ordinator.

But Crowton still has a lot to learn about the CFL, and that includes, as he freely admitted Wednesday, some of the most basic elements of the Canadian game.

"Today was the first day that we ran game situations, and I definitely felt the two downs instead of three," said Crowton, who used a walkie-talkie during a half-hour scrimmage to call plays for the Bombers quarterbacks.

"It's not that it snuck up on me, it's just the first time we've done it. You're two-and-out if you don't get the first down, and the thing that happens as a play caller, instead of following a set script, is that you have to go really fast.

"Now, I'm usually pretty good at that. But here, you're kind of eliminating that first down where you're positioning yourself, and instead it's like you're always starting on second down. It took me a series or two to get a feel.

"I felt like the first series, I was not at my best, and then the second time I was with (quarterback) Buck (Pierce), he had a real nice drive, went down the field and did some good things. I felt a little more in rhythm then. And then in the very last series, I felt pretty good."

While Crowton, who had precisely no CFL experience when the Bombers hired him this winter to replace Jamie Barresi, is clearly going to have to learn on the job, Pierce sounds like a little kid as he describes how much fun he's been having working with him so far.

"I'm seeing the game through his eyes, and that's really exciting for me," Pierce said Wednesday.

"I know what a good teacher he is and what a good coach he is. And for me to be going into my eighth year (in the CFL) and be so excited about the possibilities and learning the new offence... I've said this over and over again: I feel like a rookie again.

"I'm going home at night and I'm (reading) the playbook like the rest of these guys are. I really haven't had to do that the last couple years."

In a nutshell, Pierce says the Bombers' offence in 2012 will operate at a higher tempo, include more screen passes and, most tantalizing for Pierce, a lot more audibles.

"He's going to be a guy who's going to let me go out there and really play," Pierce said. "He's going to let me make a lot of decisions and give me the option to do what I want, based on what the defence gives us."

The hogs in front of Pierce, a normally cynical bunch, are also pumped about what Crowton has in store for them.

"The new stuff is exciting, especially for us big men," said tackle Glenn January. "I think you're going to see us out there roaming around downfield a little bit more this year."

Wednesday's scrimmage went without huddles, and head coach Paul LaPolice said his club will definitely be focused on a higher tempo under Crowton and getting up to the line and getting the ball in play more quickly this season.

So does that mean we're going to see more no-huddle offence this year? "I wouldn't say that, no," LaPolice said.

Crowton describes goals for the Winnipeg offence this year that actually sound pretty simple.

"I hope we have good tempo, I hope we have great execution and score a lot of points," he said.

"I'm not exactly sure what it was on game day here last year -- I saw film, but that's different than being here present.

"But I think the players are excited about it and they're working hard to get better and hopefully it will be a product that the fans really enjoy."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 7, 2012 C3

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