Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Will Bombers be better?

Changing coach mid-season hasn't worked out well in CFL

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There is a perception that a mid-season coaching change like the one the Winnipeg Blue Bombers made over the weekend can light a spark under a team and produce, at least in the short term, some immediate positive results.

But the statistics tell a very different story. CFL chief statistician Steve Daniel has dissected all the numbers and found that, more often than not, a lousy team that jettisons its coach mid-season remains lousy through the rest of the season.

Consider the numbers:

-- Since 1945, a total of 54 CFL teams -- including this year's Bombers -- made coaching changes during the season.

-- Of those, just 17 teams went on to qualify for the playoffs and just five made it to the Grey Cup. Only two of those teams -- the Joe Faragalli-coached Edmonton Eskimos in 1987 and the B.C. Lions (Steve Buratto) in 2000 -- won the Grey Cup.

-- The more common scenario -- by a factor of better than two to one -- is for teams to continue to struggle after a coaching swap. Of the 53 teams who have made coaching changes mid-season prior to Winnipeg's move last weekend, 36 have gone on to miss the playoffs that same season.

Perhaps partly because of the likelihood a mid-season change won't make much of a difference to a team's fortunes, the Bombers were until last weekend tied with the Edmonton Eskimos at two for the fewest number of in-season firings in the CFL.

Until Winnipeg general manager Joe Mack fired Paul LaPolice last Saturday and replaced him with defensive co-ordinator Tim Burke, the Bombers had fired a head coach during a season just twice previously -- and both in relatively recent times.

In 1998, the Bombers fired Jeff Reinebold after the club got out to a 2-12 start. The team replaced Reinebold with Gary Hoffman, who piloted the club to a 1-3 record the rest of the way as the Bombers finished the season out of the playoffs at 3-15.

In 2004, the Bombers fired Dave Ritchie after a 2-5 start. Ritchie was replaced by Jim Daley and the team improved marginally, going 5-6 the rest of the season but still finishing out of the playoffs at 7-11.

Most CFL teams have shown more willingness to make coaching changes on the fly.

Both the B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts have fired coaches mid-season 11 times; the Calgary Stampeders have done it eight times; the Hamilton Tiger-Cats seven times; while the Montreal Alouettes, Saskatchewan Roughriders, and Ottawa teams have done it four times apiece.

LaPolice's mid-season firing -- with the Bombers 2-6 -- was the second in the CFL in as many seasons. Last year, Saskatchewan fired Greg Marshall when the Roughriders opened the 2011 season at 1-7.

The Riders went on to win their next three games -- including back-to-back victories over Winnipeg -- but still finished the season 5-13 and out of the playoffs under Marshall's predecessor and replacement, Ken Miller.

Can Burke's Bombers turn the tables this season on the Riders, heading into the annual home-and-home series between the two clubs? History is slightly against it -- CFL teams that have fired their coaches mid-season have a 24-29 record in the first game under the new boss.

FIELD NOTES -- DB Jovon Johnson and DE Bryant Turner both returned to full practice after sitting out an abbreviated practice on Tuesday... QB Buck Pierce did some throwing, stretching and light running but did not take any reps in the team sessions... Injured running back Carl Volny, who is still recovering from a knee injury sustained last season and has yet to play this year, took some first- and second-team reps on Wednesday. Burke said they will bring him along slowly... RB Chad Simpson, as has been his pattern, didn't practise on Wednesday but is expected to start Sunday in Regina against the Saskatchewan Roughriders... Defensive backs Johnny Sears and Jeremy McGee are both nursing injuries and are unlikely to dress on Sunday.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 30, 2012 0

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