It's starting to look like the only thing the 2012 Winnipeg Football Club has in common with the 2011 B.C. Lions, who overcame a horrible start to win a Grey Cup, is the fact that at this point last year, the Leos didn't have any wins either.
That being said, it's high time to decide that focusing on things that occurred in the rear-view mirror, be they positive or negative, can and will be an impediment to a team trying to move forward.
In my mind, comparative analysis between any two football teams, whether years apart or in successive years, is fodder for the optimist in us all. It allows you to use information as a crutch to convince yourself that better days lie ahead, and in that vein, a much better point of reference than the 2011 B.C. Lions, would be the travails of the 2008 Blue and Gold team, for more reasons than you could figure.
The undeniable comparables, of course, are right in front of us. In 2007, the team went to the Grey Cup and lost a defensive battle to our special cousins to the west, and then tripped over the starting line in 2008 to the tune of zero and four. In 2011, this team went to the Grey Cup and lost a battle between two great defences, and inexplicably started this season exactly the same way.
The 2008 season was the third year of the Doug Berry regime. It was the first year of regression after a .500 campaign in 2006 and a 10-7-1 year in 2007. As we well know, this is the third year of the Paul LaPolice and Joe Mack era. The team improved from Year 1 to Year 2, but also appears on the verge of a third-year decline.
Not only were both head coaches coming off appearances as finalists for Coach of the Year honours, but they have similar backgrounds as offensive-minded men who employed offensive co-ordinators with zero CFL experience. In 2007, in his first season in the CFL, Kit Cartwright, like Gary Crowton now, was offensive co-ordinator and quarterback coach. The only difference between these scenarios is that Cartwright's inaugural CFL offence in 2007 finished first or second in more than a dozen categories, and Crowton's offence thus far has some work to do to replicate that.
A final parallel, which I'm sure you and I hope holds true tonight, is that in their fifth game of the season in 2008, a backup quarterback, Ryan Dinwiddie, entered the fray at a home game and ended up hitting Romby Bryant for a touchdown strike with time expiring to give the Blue and Gold their first win of the year.
To steal a phrase from my old coach of 2010 and '11, all these comparisons are "true, but useless." No matter how many similar characteristics I can dig up between this ball club and the 2008 team, this version is undeniably different.
In my opinion, the best thing this team can do going forward is start taking their own advice. One of the things that stuck out in my mind about last season was how any time the football team was forced to confront a question or an assessment of the 2010 team, which lost nine games by four points or fewer, we distanced ourselves from it with our leader's saying that those facts were "true, but useless" to our chances ahead. That idea helped us let go of the past, and the same saying should be applied when looking back to last year's successful team.
For that's what surprised me most about this 2012 team: When shown a video of a pre-game speech in the visitor's locker-room before they played Edmonton the first time this season, a couple of team leaders, encouraged by the coach, referenced the passion, enthusiasm and swagger of the 2011 squad and how they needed to channel that energy to improve this year.
If there is one thing I think I know about being part of a successful football team, it is that they live in the now and create an identity of their own with each chapter they write.
The sooner a team stops trying to be and grasping for what they were last year or other years prior, the sooner they can get down to the business of seeing what they can be here and now.
Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays and game days in the Free Press.