LaPolice a nice guy with an edge

New Blue Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice speaks during his introductory press conference. (BRIAN...

New Blue Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice speaks during his introductory press conference. (BRIAN DONOGH/QMI Agency)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:18 AM ET

He doesn't mind other people touching his quarterbacks, and he loves the shotgun formation.

Oh, and he didn't take any swipes at the previous regime.

Other than that, Blue Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice came across just like Mike Kelly in his introductory news conference yesterday.

Just kidding.

LaPolice did actually touch on some of the same themes his predecessor touched on when he was introduced just over a year ago.

"We want this to be a 'we' organization, not an 'I' organization," LaPolice said. "It's not going to be about Paul LaPolice. It's not going to be about any other player. It's going to be about the Blue Bombers."

Kelly said similar things a year ago -- and then it quickly became all about Mike Kelly.

I don't think that's going to happen again.

Where Kelly came across as brash, LaPolice is simply confident.

For instance, he knew if he got a shot at an interview with Bombers GM Joe Mack, he'd get the guy's attention.

Sure enough, he knocked 'em dead, wowing Mack with not only his knowledge of offence but with his enthusiasm and demeanour.

He's a nice guy, with an edge -- a competitor who'll slam his cap and headset to the floor when his team is flagged for too-many-men in the dying seconds of the Grey Cup game.

And an honest enough self-evaluator to overlook his own ego and realize he, too, had something to do with Saskatchewan's heartbreaking loss to Montreal last year.

"That was not the reason we lost the game," the former Riders offensive co-ordinator said of the infamous 13th-man penalty. "Why didn't we get a first down in the last two series of the game? We get one first down it's game-over -- they don't get the ball back."

Like he did in Saskatchewan, LaPolice will call the plays here, opening himself to all kinds of second-guessing from the armchair coaches and the ink-stained wretches of the media.

I don't expect he'll stomp away from any interviews, though, or toss four-letter words at broadcasters.

"You're doing your job," he said. "You're going to agree with what we do sometimes, and you're going to disagree. You guys be as fair to me as you can. And when you don't want to be fair, that's fine, too."

We'll hold him to that one.

In a lot of ways, LaPolice has an easy act to follow. The bar, after all, was set pretty low.

If he keeps his head down and his offence moves the ball at all, he's one up on the last guy.

An eternity

But simply improving on last season's fiasco, on and off the field, isn't good enough. The masses have waited 19 years since their last Grey Cup, an eternity in the CFL.

That's how LaPolice will be measured, just like Kelly, Doug Berry, Jim Daley and Dave Ritchie before him.

"Any place that has a passion for the game is going to be impatient," he said. "I hope the fans give us a chance. They're going to like what they see on the field."

There's that confidence again.

To be honest, I didn't see LaPolice as a head coach this soon.

The last time he worked in Winnipeg he lasted two years, sent packing because his offence, loaded with talent like Khari Jones, Charles Roberts, Milt Stegall and Mike Sellers, fizzled down the stretch in 2003. A much-publicized blowup with Sellers in practice didn't help his cause.

What he got out of that stint was a future wife and a good bit of experience.

What he gets out of this one, we'll see.

In his interview with Mack, he told the GM what his goals are.

"I said I'd like to live somewhere for a long period of time," LaPolice recalled.

That's really up to you, coach.

Like we said to the last guy, welcome to Winnipeg.

Now go win a Grey Cup.

Contact Paul at paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca or 632-2788.


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