Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New defensive guru looks only at future

Not set back by short, winless Gee Gees gig

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BRADENTON, Fla. -- If you were thinking getting fired from his last job after just five games had humbled Gary Etcheverry, well, think again.

The new defensive co-ordinator of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers was defiant here Sunday when asked about his brief -- and winless -- stint in 2012 as head coach of the University of Ottawa Gee Gees football team.

Asked how the Ottawa experience -- in which he was abruptly fired after opening the 2012 season at 0-5 -- had changed him as a coach, Etcheverry invoked the memory of one of the world's most famous firings. "Kind of the way maybe getting fired by the company he founded changed Steve Jobs 11 years later when he went back to save Apple," Etcheverry said Sunday on Day 1 of the Bombers' first-ever spring mini-camp in Florida.

"They weren't ready for me, and I wasn't ready for them."

Well then.

It was one of just two Apple references Etcheverry invoked Sunday in what were his first public comments to the Winnipeg media since he was hired as the Bombers' new DC in February. "People always talk about a playbook. We don't have a playbook," Etcheverry said in reference to his unique -- and famously confusing -- defence.

"Well, when you used to have a VCR you had a playbook like this," Etcheverry continued, holding his hands several inches apart, "and you still couldn't set the damn clock. And nowadays if you have an Apple product, what's the playbook? What's the user manual?

"But they say we're behind the times because we don't have a playbook? S , we're so far behind the times we're ahead of the times."


What emerged here Sunday is that the Bombers have secured for themselves a new defensive co-ordinator who, if nothing else, is certainly not lacking in confidence.

But then why would he be? Now in his 35th year in coaching, the 57-year-old Etcheverry has coached everywhere from college to Europe to the NFL to 10 years in the CFL, which included a brief stint as head coach of the Toronto Argonauts in 2002.

A Grey Cup winner in 1997 with the Argos and more recently the architect of stingy defences in Saskatchewan from 2008-10, Etcheverry is considered a master of a defence that can best be described as organized chaos, with defenders expected to play all over the field and in strangely named positions such as rover.

"I believe he's thought more about football than a lot of people and he's thought about it in a lot of different ways," says Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea, who played under Etcheverry in Toronto. "He's very thorough in his thought process on how defensive football should be played and how offensive football should be played."

The admiration is mutual. "I've told people that there's nobody that I've worked with at any point in time that I've had more respect for," Etcheverry said of O'Shea. "It's very exciting. Certainly he's elated and I am for him. Our job now is to get us to where we need to be."

So how will he do that? With fleet and finely tuned athletes, instead of the physical behemoths so commonly associated with CFL defences, Etcheverry says. "We do a lot of things that require interchangeability among our players, so we can't have a bunch of 300-pounders out there, because they can't run on this big-ass field...

"We cause confusion, there's no question about it," Etcheverry continued. "We want to be multiple, and to be multiple you gotta have interchangeable athletes... Multiple everything. Multiple alignments, multiple movements, multiple coverages, multiple, multiple, multiple...

"If we're gonna err, we're gonna err on the side of speed." Twitter: @PaulWiecek

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 14, 2014 C4


Updated on Monday, April 14, 2014 at 6:47 AM CDT: Adds photo

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