Blue pegged for mediocrity despite upgrades
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/05/2016 (2445 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
With all the speculative successes the Bombers have had this off-season, if you have concerns the team may be overconfident going into 2016, don’t be. While the optimism within Manitoban borders seemingly grew with every Harris, Dressler, Smith, and Shologan signed, it’s fair to say the national CFL audience of pundits and prognosticators have not bought into what is being sold here.
With CFL training camps about to start in earnest, it has become very fashion forward to put out predictions for the 2016 season, and the near consensus opinion on what has transpired here seems to be the old saying that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Looking at seven different predictions and opinions of people and or conglomerations that make predicting CFL news their business, three of them had the Bombers last in the West, three of them had them slightly better in fourth place, and only one publication that I came across had the team as high as third. Going over the arguments made for these placements, nearly every publication acknowledges how aggressive the team has been in the off-season, and the return of a healthy Drew Willy at quarterback, but you get the sense they saw this in the off-season prior to this one too, and aren’t about to get on board until the returns start coming in differently, and they have a valid point.
So what optimism is there for fans of the Blue and Gold who want to hang their hats on something other than a near-identical blueprint of change from last off-season? If a number of new coaches and players don’t automatically elevate the win column, then what will make this season any different than the previous two?
It could be the simple fact no other team in the West has as much at stake in 2016, and as many potentially immediate consequences of non-performance. So if they don’t wilt under the stresses that loom over them, those same motivations could potentially spur them to a level of urgency and performance that matches these minimum standards. For it can not be seriously suggested any other team in the West is as desperate for a winning season and a playoff berth than this one.
Starting at the top with the 2015 Grey Cup winners, while it’s nice to muse about repeating and back-to-back scenarios, when you lose your head coach, the majority of the staff, a number of good players, and bring in a rookie to take the reins, it doesn’t exactly scream selling out for 2016. Nobody knows better than Winnipeg about the growing pains that come with rookie head coaches — this team hasn’t hired a head coach with previous head coaching experience since Jim Daley — and the two, seemingly perennial top teams in the West, Edmonton and Calgary, both have freshmen at the helm. While this doesn’t mean they will automatically flounder, you have to be quite spectacular in the failure department to not be afforded a second year, so there will naturally be more tolerance for mediocrity than is normally accepted.
Even the one team worse than the Bombers last year, the Saskatchewan Roughriders, have a built-in rationale for underachievement in 2016. The Riders reacted appropriately for the season they had by going out and getting the trending pick to right the ship in Chris Jones, but if Jones doesn’t flip them from 15 losses to 15 wins immediately, it will simply be written off as part of the process of reloading. Even the B.C. Lions, coming off a seven-win season and stagnant year of attendance, don’t have a doomsday scenario if it takes reappointed boss Wally Buono more than a year to turn the page. It’s not like you punt the coach with the most all-time wins in the league, if it takes him a moment to dust the corporate pretenses off his shoulders.
No, if one is to make predictions about a season before a complete roster takes the field and we get a visual of how things are coming together for each ball club, logic would seem to indicate the team that has made the most positive changes, has the most at stake, and all of their cards on the table, would trend a little higher in the polls.
Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears weekly in the Free Press.
Doug Brown, always a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.