Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Maybe winning is everything

Sure has made a big difference with Bombers

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Blue Bombers wide receiver Julian Feoli-Gudino and his teammates are flying high these days, thanks to a confidence-building 3-0 start.

PAUL CHIASSON / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Blue Bombers wide receiver Julian Feoli-Gudino and his teammates are flying high these days, thanks to a confidence-building 3-0 start.

It's hardly a revelation -- the widely held notion in sports "winning cures everything" -- but Mike O'Shea and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers might just be the latest, and best, example.

The Bombers aren't without their flaws through three weeks of the 2014 Canadian Football League season, but they are a perfect 3-0.

And for a franchise that hit rock-bottom last year, which was just 9-27 over the past two seasons, the early turnaround is nothing short of remarkable.

Consider the 3-0 start is the best in 11 years and just the third time since 1965 the Bombers head into Week 4 unbeaten.

There's also this: The late rallies in the last two games -- over the Ottawa Redblacks and then the Montreal Alouettes last Friday -- also serve to soothe some of the wounds that lingered for those survivors of 2012-13.

And that's no small thing.

So, what do a pair of wins like that do for a squad?

"It increases buy-in, for sure," said head coach Mike O'Shea Sunday. "But the main point is to get everybody to realize this isn't last year and move on... realize we're just going to keep on grinding and we can turn those games into wins.

"There's lots of corrections to be made, too. But the good part is we won and that allows us to make these corrections more easily. There were a lot of mistakes, a lot of penalties, a lot of times of (quarterback) Drew (Willy) getting hit where he maybe didn't have to. Mistakes on special teams... there's a lot to fix and we're fortunate we won."

Yes, a loss against Ottawa two weeks ago would have brought out the critics who suggested during the off-season the CFL's new franchise was more talented than the Bombers.

And had the Bombers fallen in Montreal, any lingering doubts about depth and Canadian content might have surfaced again.

Yet, for as fine a line as the Bombers' 3-0 start is from also being 1-2, the wins can be a powerful factor in changing the attitude and culture in the club's dressing room.

O'Shea was asked if he could sense this was a "fragile" club when he took over and in desperate need of some positivity.

"I said it right from the start: We need to win and we needed to win early to get this started, to get the buy-in, the feeling to be able to exhale and let stuff go from the prior year," said O'Shea. "But, once again, I wasn't here last year so I don't know how beaten down they were.

"'Fragile' is not a word I would use to describe professional football players. If they're fragile they probably wouldn't last too long."

OK, so maybe fragile wasn't the best fit. O'Shea pondered what word or term might best describe the lingering mood from a year ago. His answer spoke volumes.

"It's the idea that it's not 'Here we go again,' " said the Bombers' rookie boss. "With some teams you can sense it. You can sense (when) the attitude changes to 'Here we go again.' It was important we got rid of that very quickly.

"This isn't 'Here we go again,' this is something different. We should be past that stage now with these two last wins, coming from behind. I think we're past that now. So whatever the next challenge is that gets revealed in the next tight game, we'll be able to conquer that, too."

Ed.Tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 14, 2014 C3

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