February 22, 2020

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Opinion

Bombers' game-day coaching reflects sober second thought

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Andrew Harris celebrates his touchdown with teammate Adarius Bowman during the game against the Toronto Argonauts, in Toronto on Saturday. (Mark Blinch / The Canadian Press)</p>

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Andrew Harris celebrates his touchdown with teammate Adarius Bowman during the game against the Toronto Argonauts, in Toronto on Saturday. (Mark Blinch / The Canadian Press)

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/7/2018 (579 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Broken clocks are right twice a day. So it shouldn't be that unusual that many of the corrections and suggestions volunteered by fans and pundits on a weekly basis occasionally hit the bullseye.

Last week — after the excruciating loss to the B.C. Lions — a number of these hindsight observations actually appeared to be heeded, and implemented, by the game managers of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, in their dominating win against the Toronto Argonauts. Players learn from their mistakes continually throughout the course of a season; apparently, the coaching staff can too.

"Either this game against the Argonauts had the highest degree of coincidental change known to sport, or a large degree of the football population in Winnipeg actually knew what they were talking about."

While it is rarer than a white rhinoceros for a coach to agree with the suggestion box after a game, and especially after a loss, you cannot deny what you see on the field. Either this game against the Argonauts had the highest degree of coincidental change known to sport, or a large degree of the football population in Winnipeg actually knew what they were talking about.

After the B.C. loss, there were criticisms about the overly cute, short yardage play calling, along with frustrations about points being left on the board. There were suggestions that with only 13 touches and over a 10-yard average that Andrew Harris should have been used more generously throughout the game and in critical "must have" scenarios. More generally, there were the observations about how this offence ran aground in the second half.

Fast-forward to seven days later, and surprisingly, it seems the suggestion box was opened, examined and even implemented. Of course, coaches can come to the same conclusions as the public on their own, but rarely does it line up with this degree of symmetry. For instance, Andrew Harris had more than double the touches, as he went from 13 carries to 27. Not surprisingly, with that kind of involvement, he also set a new personal best for rushing yardage in a game, and scored two touchdowns for good measure.

When it came to short yardage, we were told before the game the approach would not change, and the failings of the previous week were a mere aberration. By all accounts and witnesses, however, it looked to be tweaked, and reflected the comments many had made. Instead of trying to make a big play in an already big gamble, by gaining the edge and sneaking the ball down the line of scrimmage, they ran middle wedges and didn’t get overly cute with the football or the approach. They let the big eaters up front eat, and merely followed in their wake.

And in those short yardage scenarios where they had the opportunity to kick a field goal and increase the lead by another score, they took the points instead of just going for more. And when the short yardage scenario was anything longer than a yard, they gave the football to the guy who could anticipate where the void was going to be, and how the blocking would unfold, and he carried it into the end zone untouched.

In general, they left the running to the running backs, and the throwing to the quarterbacks. There was still a high degree of creativity, motion and tempo change, but it wasn’t the overall theme of the night, and they didn’t try to get overly fancy. The offence seemed to run through all things Harris, and Nichols balanced the distribution of the football and was his regularly accurate self.

There was a refreshing take and honest admission from offensive coordinator Paul LaPolice on the pregame show, where he lamented how he had not ridden the Harris train near enough the previous game, and appeared to second-guess his decision to not give him more touches at crucial moments. Suffice to say, after the game against the Argonauts, there would be no more short-term regrets to be had.

It doesn’t matter whether they will admit it or not. Coaches are human, and fallible, and though they will often insist they don’t spend time perusing public opinion of their performances, they can’t help but hear them. While many of our collective opinions may be more miss than hit, sometimes the observations are on the money, and the play calling from Saturday reflected as much.

Everything we didn’t like about the Bombers in their week five loss, we liked about them in their week six win. If the coaching staff continues to keep an open mind about their approaches and in game adjustments, and be fluid with their policies and game plans, who knows, we may even have to drop the words "stubborn and inflexible" from our weekly dialogue.

Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears weekly in the Free Press.

Twitter: @DougBrown97

Doug Brown

Doug Brown
Columnist

Doug Brown, always a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.

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