In my estimation, it's still too soon to be handing out free passes to all the major players for 2013.
In fact, I cannot recall another time when the two remaining football games of the regular season meant so much to the future of so many people.
Not only do the Bombers still have hope of entering the post-season and salvaging what has been a largely disappointing year, but depending upon the results over the next couple of weeks, this ball club could remain status quo or be completely made over.
If this was high school, for the first two-thirds of the season, Gary Crowton would have been voted as the coaching staff's "least likely to succeed" candidate. In spite of his credentials and experience, his unfamiliarity with Canadian football cost him dearly in the early goings. Furthermore, dependent upon who you talk to, this was compounded by a lack of control and autonomy over the offence, as then head coach Paul LaPolice was still intimately involved. Of course, I'm of the mind that as a prior condition of Crowton's employment, he was granted complete control of the offence and play calling, which was reported in this paper -- and this rationale is merely an excuse for early non-performance. Yet regardless of whether you agree or not, the last four games this offence has been measured anywhere from respectable to unstoppable, and Crowton has his fingerprints all over it.
But, four consistently productive football games does not make a legacy. If Crowton's offence regresses to the stagnant times of the early year, then the heady days of late will have to be seen as an aberration, as the body of work will be largely unsatisfactory. Conversely, if his offence continues to monopolize the clock and force feed the run down everybody's gullets, then I would agree that he has proven his best days lie ahead.
Head coach Tim Burke is on the cusp of having his rookie name tag peeled off his helmet and graduating into the world of official coach-dom, but once again, sputtering down the stretch and/or another judgement error that snatches defeat from the jaws of victory would swiftly kill his momentum and all public sentiment. When the best you can be for the season is 5-5 (he currently sits at 3-5 as a head coach), winning your final two games, and riding the only crest of success all year, no matter what happens with Edmonton, is critical for his campaign to remain with the club too.
The coaching staff aren't the only ones that need these final two games to end well for the foreseeable future. Buck Pierce is back at the helm of the offence, back as the face of the franchise. His value to the roster has come to light of late, as evidenced through countless player and coach testimonials, and he is an essential component for the confidence of such a young team. If Buck starts, finishes, and wins these next two games, that will be eight games he played this year. I don't know what he can do to demonstrate that he has overcome the durability and reliability issues that have plagued his career, but I sure hope he does.
Lastly, Joe Mack, the GM of the football team and the architect behind all of these coaching constructs and players, in my mind, needs this team to make the playoffs and scare the hell out of somebody. His team has had one exceptional year where they won their division and appeared in the Grey Cup. No matter what happens these last two games, his team will have lost far more than they have won during his three-year reign, and going from Grey Cup runner up to potentially last place in the CFL is not palatable.
This team seems primed and poised to run over their final two opponents, and with a little help from the Evil Empire, be the squad that nobody wants to face in the post-season. If they win out in dominant fashion, it could be a happy ending for everybody aforementioned. If they trip up in sight of the finish line, moments of competence may not be enough.
Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays and game days in the Free Press.