December 16, 2018

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Record: 10–8–0

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Blue Bomber Report (10–8–0)

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Maybe next year, Bombers fans

Team laments 28th straight season without a Grey Cup title

Winnipeg Blue Bombers QB Matt Nichols: "There were a lot of great things to take from this year."

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg Blue Bombers QB Matt Nichols: "There were a lot of great things to take from this year."

The longest Grey Cup title drought reached 28 years Sunday and Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea took time Monday morning to empathize with the club’s championship-starved supporters.

“They’re terrific fans and for the five years I’ve been here we’ve been trying to deliver what they want. And the players have been, too...,” said O’Shea at a season-ending news conference at Investors Group Field. “It’s not easy. I think we have given the fans over the last few years something they can be proud of on the field. We’ve given them some excitement.

“I know for a lot of fans that isn’t enough and that’s OK. It’s OK that they feel that way and I appreciate that. I don’t think I’ve ever shied away and said I didn’t own that span, historically, just because I’m not here. I’m part of it now and we’re going to do our damndest to end it.”

In Sunday’s West Division final, Winnipeg dropped a 22-14 decision in Calgary. The Stampeders will face the Ottawa Redblacks in Sunday’s Grey Cup game. The Blue Bombers last won the big prize in 1990, beating the Edmonton Eskimos 50-11 at BC Place.

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The longest Grey Cup title drought reached 28 years Sunday and Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea took time Monday morning to empathize with the club’s championship-starved supporters.

"They’re terrific fans and for the five years I’ve been here we’ve been trying to deliver what they want. And the players have been, too...," said O’Shea at a season-ending news conference at Investors Group Field. "It’s not easy. I think we have given the fans over the last few years something they can be proud of on the field. We’ve given them some excitement.

"I know for a lot of fans that isn’t enough and that’s OK. It’s OK that they feel that way and I appreciate that. I don’t think I’ve ever shied away and said I didn’t own that span, historically, just because I’m not here. I’m part of it now and we’re going to do our damndest to end it."

In Sunday’s West Division final, Winnipeg dropped a 22-14 decision in Calgary. The Stampeders will face the Ottawa Redblacks in Sunday’s Grey Cup game. The Blue Bombers last won the big prize in 1990, beating the Edmonton Eskimos 50-11 at BC Place.

How did O’Shea explain the loss?

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Adam Bighill: "Enjoyed every single day."

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Adam Bighill: "Enjoyed every single day."

"Because we played the Calgary Stampeders and they played very well, that sums it up," said O’Shea. "It’s really a game of inches. I know that sounds cliché but some of those plays, it’s an inch here, an inch there, and you’ve run into a Calgary football team that’s pretty damn good."

The Blue Bombers, who finished the regular season in third place with a 10-8 record after winning five of their last six games, entered the game with a reasonable chance to upset the powerhouse Stamps.

"We definitely felt like we had the talent and everything we needed to get to where we wanted to be, so it stings," said veteran slotback Weston Dressler, who caught two passes for 13 yards Sunday as Winnipeg’s offence struggled to move the ball and managed only 13 first downs.

Added quarterback Matt Nichols: "We didn’t get our end goal accomplished but there were a lot of great things to take from this year and honestly... I have so many good memories from this group. Those things I’ll definitely cherish forever."

For linebacker Adam Bighill, a pending free agent who joined the team midway through training camp after being released by the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, the loss didn’t spoil what was a memorable campaign.

"It was a great year from the moment I came into this locker room, this organization and into the fan base," said Bighill, adding the Bombers had an "uncommon" work ethic and dedication. "I mean, the fans have been great. The locker room here accepted me from Day 1 and the coaching staff’s been great. Came to work every day and enjoyed every single day."

Bombers receiver Weston Dressler signs autographs on locker clean out day Monday.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Bombers receiver Weston Dressler signs autographs on locker clean out day Monday.

As players quietly cleaned out their lockers, O’Shea was quick to credit his players, and reflected on how difficult Sunday’s loss was to digest.

"You see what they’re going through, obviously I can empathize with them" said O’Shea. "You see there have been relationships built over the last seven months in this season... and over the last bunch of years with the bunch of guys we’ve had here. Just observing it is tough. Guys don’t want it to end."

Instead of having a chance to hoist the Grey Cup on Sunday, O’Shea, who enters the final year of a three-year contract extension in 2019, and his staff will have an entire off-season to ponder the future.

"Well, as of today, we’re at a standstill. We’re not going anywhere today," he said. "Tomorrow we’re moving forward. That’s all you can say. You’re either going to believe we’re heading in the right direction or you’re not. As I am around town, I never shy away from any conversation with fans. If they need convincing, I’ll try to convince them."

What will he say to those fans?

"We’ve got a great core of guys that really believe in the team concept and what we’re trying to get done and how we’re going to do it," said O’Shea. "I think they displayed it all year, even through the ebbs and flows of the season that were very challenging. We had a really gritty bunch that just stuck to the process and believed in it.

"It’s hard in words to paint the right picture but if you could bring all those fans into the dressing room, in tough times and good times, they would pick it up very quickly about what we have going on here."

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Sports Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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