When your record is 2-9, and two of your last three games were nearly called on a mercy rule contingency, it tends to change the focus of a football season.
Saturday night in Toronto, one of the questions for the Three Down Segment, generated by the think tank at TSN was, "How do the Bombers approach the last seven games?"
It's a question that hadn't needed to be asked around these parts for some time. The multiple choice answers were to: a) stay the course, b) prepare for the future, c) blow up the roster, d) blow up the front office, and at this point, each of these considerations is worth looking at.
"Staying the course," is the easy choice, the choice of those in denial, the choice of those grasping for straws, and the obvious pick for the existing coaching staff and the players. This is the win at all costs mentality, the mentality that is pervasive in team sports in 99 per cent of situations, that requires the best players be played at all times. This option gives the team the best chance of salvaging the greatest number of the remaining seven games, gives the coaching staff the best opportunity to retain their jobs, and affords the players the opportunity to at least spruce up what will obviously be a blemish on all of their resumés.
"Preparing for the future," is not a mentality that is often embraced in pro football, because it signifies a shift in attitude from the present to the future, and it would signify an abandonment of the original goals of the 2012 season. While you can still win games while preparing for the future, the emphasis shifts from winning now, to granting young and inexperienced players the time on field that will benefit them and the team down the road. This is the time where players can grow from added experience, while giving the coaching staff and management an opportunity to evaluate them in scenarios they might not otherwise see. The problem with this approach is that it is not exactly a strong selling point for revenue generation and fans that want to see a level of improvement, hope, and entertainment, as the franchise closes out the year.
"Blowing up the roster," is a crude way of acquiring better players, en masse. If it is determined that the 2-9 record is simply a byproduct of not having sufficient talent on the football field, then blowing up the roster, and signing a slew of NFL castaways is the way to go, regardless of their ramp-up time. Seldom is a losing environment singularly the fault of just the players or the managers, but if the schemes are proven and sound -- which is only the case on one side of the ball here -- then continually challenging your roster with competition and airlifting in alternative options at all areas of concerns is the way to go.
Lastly, "Blowing up the front office," is an option that has already been exercised to some degree this season with the dismissal of the head coach, but not with the intended result. If you are going to make a change with another coach, GM, or anywhere else, time is of the essence the further up the ladder you go, as any new manager would prefer to begin evaluating the existing coaches and roster in action, and be in place before the off-season begins in earnest.
So for the 2012 Winnipeg Blue Bombers, a team that by all indications, is getting worse as the season progresses, which is the appropriate course of action?
In my estimation, the time for staying the course has come and gone. They would practically have to win every remaining game to enter the post-season, and at this point, that appears to be more than just a mission impossible. I would sell "staying the course" publicly, while preparing for the future by evaluating as many unknowns and question marks on the roster as possible. If you are a non-import, you are going to see significant playing time over the next seven weeks, in conjunction with flying in potential upgrades for a number of roster spots and auditioning them.
In addition, taking a long, hard look at both the remaining coaching staff, the GM, and even the board of directors would appear to be in order. After all, 22 years is around 20 years too many for a championship drought in an environment that is this passionate about its football, and when things are this bad on the gridiron, nothing and nobody should escape scrutiny.
Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays and game days in the Free Press.