December 5, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
While the Winnipeg Blue Bombers took a step in the right direction on Sunday with the dismissal of offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton, now is the time for prudence and to temper expectations as the offence transitions.
While I would dare say Marcel Bellefeuille has forgotten more about CFL offences than Gary Crowton learned during his time in Canada, and I expect to see the full potential of this roster unleashed in his system, it is not going to happen overnight.
The Bombers opened training camp on June 2 and they had 25 days to rep their "new" offence before their first regular-season game on June 27, not to mention a five-day mini-camp in the spring, and the fact it was the second-year Gary Crowton as the co-ordinator. Marcel Bellefeuille has six days to implement his system, and he has 41/2-hour days -- not 12-hour days like in training camp -- to do it in. Granted he only has to score more than 11 points against his old team to make an immediate improvement over his predecessor, but Rome was not built in a day, and neither is offensive competency.
Every football system has its own language. It might be the exact same play, but no two offensive co-ordinators call it the same thing, and good luck getting one of them to adopt to the other's language. Audibles, protections, hot routes, two-minute drills, short yardage, and all the run and passing plays have their own unique terminology and it takes time to learn it. Coach Bellefeuille may have time to introduce the fundamentals of his offensive scheme by Saturday, but any repetition and complexity will be a long ways off.
Furthermore, the best schemes I've been a part of were the ones where the co-ordinators studied their rosters and tweaked their schemes to match their personnel. After spending countless hours evaluating the talent at their disposal, not only do they alter their game plans to suit their resources, but shuffle their assets around so they are in ideal positions for maximum benefit.
Coach Bellefeuille may be a quick learner but he only arrived a week ago. If he knows the names of everybody on his side of the ball, let alone where he should distribute them for full effect, he is already way ahead of what can be expected.
While, like many people, I'd never previously heard of a head coach completely deferring to his assistants for the selection of who should start at quarterback, this might actually be the first week where I would go that route. If Marcel has done anything in the short time he has been in Winnipeg, I would suspect he has been learning more about the most important tools in his offence -- the quarterbacks.
Since he has an abbreviated time in which to implement his system, it would make sense he be given the green light to decide which pivot, at least for now, should be at the helm.
Not only does Bellefeuille need the sharpest tool in the toolbox, he needs the one who is willing to put in eight-hour days -- outside of union-mandated rules -- until game day. In my estimation, Goltz is both the most adaptable and athletic -- which might come in handy with an abbreviated playbook -- but Buck has the most experience and is the only true veteran, so I would expect Bellefeuille to have either of those two start for him initially.
While the deck may be stacked against this offence for Saturday, and may be even simpler than what fans have gotten used to of late, this is yet another step to returning this football club to respectability, sooner rather than later.
By the end of the 2013 football season, we should have a good idea of not only what Marcel Bellefeuille brings to the table conceptually, but what the true potential of the players on this offence really is.
Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays and the days following game days in the Free Press.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 20, 2013 D1