Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

LaPo deserves game ball

Coach kept his focus through a very trying, pressure-packed week

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Paul LaPolice didn't take the bait all week, with his name and the word fired jammed into the same sentences over and over again. He closed his mind to the nattering from people like myself and simply coached his ass off and got a win. Give him his due.

This was a coach backed into a corner and facing unemployment had he failed and seen his team's record fall to 1-6. LaPolice barely blinked. He put his head down and coached his team for five days. On the sixth he led them to a win.

It will read as a plain, old 32-25 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the year-end review but there was so much more to this.

LaPolice locked the door and fought everyone in the bar. And beat them all. Good for him. In a season with a lot of things going against him -- he needed a win that was both moral and literal. He got them both.

LaPolice faced questions about his job security, had columns written about his worthiness as a coach and had to endure endless tweets calling for his head. Maybe he was oblivious to some of it, but not all of it. He showed a little frustration as he bristled during a Wednesday press conference when asked about potentially being fired. But that was it. In a week when many would have cracked, LaPolice barely showed a wrinkle.

LaPolice knew there was pressure outside the building and he likely wondered if there was some inside the building too. But he took the heat and he went about his business like he always does and worked and worked and worked.

This time it resulted in a victory and certainly bought LaPolice more time. Maybe the season. At 2-5 there is still potential for this campaign to get away from LaPolice but GM Joe Mack can no longer have his finger circling the panic switch.

The third-year coach will lead his team next week against the B.C. Lions here in Winnipeg and it's hard to imagine anyone else taking the Bombers to Regina for Labour Day. Another win in that span and the drums will quiet substantially.

The Bombers defence had a lot to do with this win and Hamilton Tiger-Cats bumbled and fumbled their way into a loss, but don't minimize LaPolice's role in the victory.

He's certainly worn the stain of so many losses and it has to work both ways. This was his win. LaPolice gets the game ball. He should frame it because it was no small feat.

No question, LaPolice did a fine job of coaching this week.

LaPolice and his staff made the bold move to go to third-string quarterback Joey Elliott and he rewarded them with a clean game. Sure, Elliott got a little lucky at times with at least three sure interceptions dropped but the Bombers certainly deserved a break after having so many go against them to this point in the season.

Putting a quarterback with no wins on his resumé in charge takes some courage and belief in your process. LaPolice didn't worry about the surrounding circumstances but did what the film told him to do and inserted an unproven pivot.

Then he coached Elliott up and gave him a game plan that was both careful and crafty. Most of all it was a winner.

LaPolice has lots of work to do to get this team out of the hole they're in but he's not afraid of that. Maybe that's the one thing we learned about him this week more than anything else. He's not afraid of anything. Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 17, 2012 C3

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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