December 9, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
A day of reckoning can be defined as "a statement of a sum due" or "a settlement of accounts." The 2013 season of Bombers football is fast approaching, and along with it a number of outstanding invoices coming due, to either be paid in full or handed over to the collection agencies at the expiration of the year.
For many who played the game, the unrelenting presence of this measuring stick over our contributions was what we held dearest about the industry. It creates the most accountable of environments, and it inevitably holds all those involved responsible for their performances, both on and off the field.
As an athlete in this game, there is nowhere to hide or disguise your play on the gridiron. There are no guaranteed contracts to insulate you and no safe houses where the camera does not document your successes and failures.
You cannot hide behind your money, your fame, your union or your name.
You can either play or not play, just as you can either coach or be exposed.
Both groups are almost seamlessly rewarded for their efforts, or penalized by them, as bandages never adhere very long in an industry where scrutiny is your constant companion.
The captivating thing about the 2013 season, thereby, is what is on the line for so many.
What makes professional sports so enthralling is the drama that unfolds as individuals and entities come to realize their time is now, and how their performances elevate or flatline as a consequence.
Tim Burke enters his second year as the head coach of this football team and his second year of head coaching, period. While he debuted at the helm of one of the ugliest displays of football many have seen in these parts (a 52-0 loss to Saskatchewan), he commands the respect of the room and has the attention of those he presides over, along with the stones to look in the eyes of his detractors and admit culpability when he falters.
Assuming the reins of a struggling football team is no easy task, and subsequently, he was awarded a free pass for his tribulations last season. This year is his first true debut as a head coach, as he has now had time to shape this roster and staff to his liking. All he needs to do now is learn from his experiences and produce, which will go hand in hand with defeating the average two-season tenure the other leaders of men have experienced the last dozen years with this franchise.
Moving to the forefront of the roster, Buck Pierce has every attribute you could hope for in a company man, save for the body to back it up, which is the ultimate reason he is still in contemplation for 2013. Make no mistake, this season is the final crossroad for him donning these colours. Whether he takes the last step out the door or rises above his labels one final time to reward those who have believed in him will become evident very soon.
If you were to look up "job insecurity" in any reference book, a rotating picture of the Bombers offensive co-ordinator of the day would appear. Saying that, Gary Crowton's stock last year set a new record for volatility. With a mixed bag of results all over the board, but trending toward the positive as the season progressed, he now has a year under his belt and should know what works and what doesn't in this landscape. What will be put to the test is whether his systems continue to evolve and become prolific. Or will the year opposing defences had to study his tendencies and make adjustments counteract his growth?
Few coaches land in Winnipeg in a better situation from which they came, and even fewer look to relive the successes they experienced during their time here, but the return of Casey Creehan is exactly such a scenario.
After a miserable stay in Hamilton as a first-time defensive co-ordinator, his immediate quandary is whether he has the ability and parts at his disposable to get this defence back to the level they played at in 2011. The players responded well to his unorthodox teachings when he was thrust to the forefront two seasons ago, but whether enough of this talent is still here for him to put his stamp on remains to be seen.
Of course, the Bomber with the biggest day of reckoning will undoubtedly be general manager Joe Mack, the maestro of all of the aforementioned components and a magnet for criticism. As year four of his tenure comes to fruition, it would seem a playoff berth and a playoff win would be the necessary components he must preside over to balance his resumé,w and prolong a day of reckoning that warrants further discussion.
Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays and game days in the Free Press.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 2, 2013 C5
Updated on Tuesday, April 2, 2013 at 9:26 PM CDT:
corrects spelling of reins