One of the cardinal rules of professional athletics is to be complimentary and respectful of your opponent.
You never want to provide "bulletin board" material, and you never want to give your opponent additional motivation to beat you. In fact, the smart and experienced players are often so gracious and effusive with praise, they lull their opponent to sleep by injecting them with over confidence.
A problem is identified, however, when your players are the only ones taking their hats off to the opposition after a game, and no one is complimenting you about what you brought to the table.
To be sure, opponents of the 2-9 football Bombers have paid homage and respect to the defense, and more specifically the defensive line before most every game this year. But only one time in eleven contests have I read of an opposing player or coach remarking about a brilliant strategy enacted, or how they were caught off guard by an exploitative game plan put forward by the Blue and Gold.
Instead, week after week, loss after loss, it's been the players on your home team paying tribute to their opponent's game plan, and remarking, on a regular basis, "about how they had the perfect call for what we were doing."
This week's admission came from none other than Henoc Muamba who, when interviewed by Winnipeg reporters after the game, gave credit where credit was due, to the offensive co-ordinator of a formerly one-win football team: "That's how you beat an aggressive front four and front seven. Credit to their offensive co-ordinator. They came out with a good game plan, and they caught us in things they were expecting us to be in and they took advantage of it."
Only one time this year have I heard a Winnipeg Blue Bomber opponent concede a strategic victory to the Blue and Gold after the game had expired. It also happened to come after one of the only two games they have won this year.
At the conclusion of the Banjo Bowl, there were no shortage of Rider players available to comment about how the Bombers had surprised them with their game plan, and how the team had done things they weren't expecting.
There were large numbers of us in the public who were bewildered and impressed by how the offense had reformatted for the second half. After putting together two quarters of record-breaking ineptitude, not only did the team stick with the same QB, but they adjusted to his strengths and implemented a degree of change that was just as critical in the outcome of the game as a defense that, uncharacteristically, decided to blitz until the combines came home.
Yet this was the only game out of all eleven so far this year, that I've heard anybody tip their cap to the ingenuity of this football team.
While the talent on the roster certainly leaves something to be desired, and a large percentage of the offensive personnel need to be upgraded, I would dare suggest that sometimes it seems as though the leaders of these men would have a hard time identifying the vulnerability of an opposing quarterback with a broken throwing arm.
At least after this latest loss to the Edmonton Eskimos, head coach Tim Burke admitted culpability for the chalk board mismatch and conceded as much when he told the Free Press that, " we were expecting... they had tendencies in certain areas so we had calls to be very aggressive against those tendencies and it turned out they changed those tendencies."
Look back to Henoc's comment now, about how, "...they caught us in things they were expecting us to be in and they took advantage of it." Could this game planning gumbo really be as simple as the Eskimos studying their own film and changing their tendencies, while the Blue and Gold continue to serve up entrees of yesterday's blue plate special? It almost seems too simple to be true.
A short time ago Tim Burke remarked that he is doing the best job he can with what he has to work with. The talent on this football team may not be up to par with the best in the CFL right now, especially offensively, but a number of its coaching staff can look in the same mirror when it comes time to search for answers.
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.