December 10, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
GUELPH, ONT. -- Look, we're going to go to some dark places in this story you're about to read, so how about we at least open on a positive note:
This 2013 Winnipeg Blue Bombers' season, as bad as it's been, has not yet reached the point where the task at hand has switched from a search and rescue to a recovery mission.
You can see it from here, but no, we're not there yet.
"As soon as you quit believing you can win," Bombers head coach Tim Burke observed on Thursday, "you won't."
Alas, there is a big difference between believing you can win and actually doing it, as clearly evidenced by the woeful record currently hanging around the necks of this crew of Big Blue Believers.
And that gets us to the meat of our exploration: At 1-6 and coming off what was arguably their worst game of the season (and that's saying something), the time has come to put the travails of the embattled Bombers into some kind of historical context.
Or, put another way: Does this motley bunch have the makings of one of the worst teams in the long and sometimes glorious history of this franchise?
That is a low bar indeed -- the 1964 edition of the Bombers won just once during a 16-game schedule. And yes, it is still very early, with almost two-thirds of the 2013 season still to play.
But let's play a little game, shall we? The game goes like this -- name a team, right now, that the Bombers will be favoured to beat this season.
Exactly. After drilling the Bombers 37-18 in Winnipeg last week, the lowly 3-4 Hamilton Tiger-Cats, whose only wins this season have come against Winnipeg (twice) and the almost as bad Edmonton Eskimos, are whopping 10-point favourites to hang yet another defeat on the Bombers Saturday afternoon.
Care to guess what the point spread will be in Regina on Labour Day Weekend? Do Vegas lines even go into triple digits?
We kid, we kid -- it's been a long year.
Seriously, with the lone exception of a home-and-home series next month with the 1-6 Eskimos, it's hard to envision at this moment what team the Bombers could realistically expect to beat to score their elusive second win.
And even if they can pick off another win, that would only get them to the level of the 1970 Bombers, who went 2-14 but played two fewer regular-season games than the current squad.
Heck, even two more Winnipeg wins -- let's say they beat Edmonton back-to-back -- would only get them to the same level as the motley bunch led by Jeff Reinebold in 1998.
That 3-15 team is widely regarded as the worst edition of the Bombers in recent decades and the fact it seems like a bit of a reach today to see how these Bombers even get that many wins illustrates just exactly how dire the current straits really are.
Still, where there's hope, there's life.
"The good news is I'm not a betting man so it doesn't matter what the point spread is this week," Bombers offensive tackle Glenn January said Thursday after his team's final full practice at Investors Group Field in advance of travelling to Guelph today.
"I'm confident -- I think we all are in this locker-room -- that we're much better than a one-win team. Now, we just have to go out and prove it."
Unfortuately, that last part has been no small caveat for a team riding a five-game losing streak. That streak goes all the way back to what seemed like such a promising win in Montreal in Week 2, but today looks more like smoke and mirrors.
The Alouettes, it has emerged, have been almost as bad as Winnipeg at 3-5.
The long weeks since then have been a train wreck of pink slips, with the Bombers currently on their second CEO, GM and offensive co-ordinator and third starting quarterback.
But while the big picture is dark, the good news is that a pro football season is won and lost from week-to-week. And so while it remains an insufferable sports cliché, it is probably for the best the Bombers take the rest of this year one game at a time.
"We're not looking at the rest of the season -- we're looking at this week," said Bombers punter Mike Renaud. "We just need to win this week. There are other teams also struggling -- the East isn't by any stretch a powerhouse.
"If we can get a couple Ws in this middle stretch of the season, everybody knows it's the last five or six games of the year that matter most. It's Week 13 to Week 18 that determines who makes the playoffs and who goes to the Grey Cup."
Which is both true and particularly interesting this year. At least one of the Bombers, Eskimos and Alouettes will make the playoffs this season despite the stark reality that those three teams collectively have five wins among them right now.
So yeah, the search and rescue continues, even as history begins to close in.
Can you recall a Bombers team that was worse than this one? Join the conversation in the comments below.
In addition to the 10 Grey Cups the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have won over the years, there have also been some very lean seasons in a history that stretches back to 1930.
With the current Bombers mired at 1-6 and riding a five-game losing streak, here's a look at some of the all-time worst Bombers teams in franchise history in the post-Second World War era (by number of wins-losses):
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 23, 2013 C1
Updated on Friday, August 23, 2013 at 6:34 AM CDT:
Adds question for discussion, changes headline, adds photo
Updated on Friday, August 23, 2013 at 10:31 AM CDT:
Fixes bad character.