Grey Cup to rememberVancouver, Lions put on a show and Bombers can learn from it
By KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency
|Lions fans cheer prior to the CFL's 99th Grey Cup game at BC Place in Vancouver, B.C., Nov. 27, 2011. (ANDRE FORGET/QMI Agency)
VANCOUVER - Well, it was an excellent and entertaining six days in Vancouver.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers and their fans, of course, didnít find the ending that much fun, but the folks on the Left Coast still put on one heck of a show. They have a pretty fancy stadium, too.
Letís review the week that was, and letís look ahead to what the future may hold for the Blue and Gold as they prepare to make the move to the south end of the city.
The bottom line is Winnipegís Grey Cup drought has now reached 21 years, the longest in the CFL by nine years. Thatís five Grey Cup losses in a row now for the Bombers. Unfortunately, theyíre getting good at doing that. But letís face it: The better team won on Sunday Ö Just to clarify something that could turn into a wild CFL myth if not set straight right now. The downs box at B.C. Place jammed during pre-game testing, and it was unable to be fixed. Oddly, the backup downs box had the same problem. So they got a brand new one delivered from nearby Notre Dame High School in time for kickoff Ö A few Bombers were a little too excited about being in the Grey Cup. The secondary seemed to be flying a little too high in the early going, and defensive co-ordinator Tim Burke even said so after the game Ö All eight teams had their cheerleaders on the field on Sunday. Hamilton won ó after Winnipeg, of course Ö Fans at the Grey Cup are awesome. Everyone is wearing some sort of team colours, and they all get along. It truly is a great national party Ö When it comes to the woeful Bomber offence, which was fifth in yards and points scored this season, is it the talent? Is it the coaching? Is it the system? Itís obvious no one ó not even the Bombers ó knew how to fix it this season, but something in there has to give in the off-season. Itíll be interesting to see what changes are made, because the fact of the matter is something has to change Ö Paul LaPolice seemed a little on edge all week in Vancouver. He was downright miffed that his stumbles at the coaches press conference were reported on, and he didnít let it go all week. Maybe he was just getting his stress out against the media, which is fine, but for him to be continually bothered about it was strange.
By my count, the Bombers have 14 players set to become free agents in February, give or take a couple. That includes quarterbacks Buck Pierce, Alex Brink and Joey Elliott, and four of the five starting offensive linemen: Andre Douglas, Brendon LaBatte, Steve Morley and Glenn January. Receivers Greg Carr and Aaron Hargreaves are other offensive starters who have played out their options, as has starting safety Ian Logan Ö Itís believed import offensive lineman Kelly Butler has signed a new deal. There could be others done already as well, as GM Joe Mack has been talking with potential free agents for a while now Ö The Bombers should bring back Pierce, Brink and Elliott and let them sort it out over the month of June Ö Thereís a thinking out there that LaBatte will want to go back to Saskatchewan to play for the Roughriders. Heís from Saskatchewan, Brendan Taman and Bob Dyce, if the latter stays there, were the ones who drafted him in Winnipeg, and Gene Makowsky is expected to retire. Who better than LaBatte to become a fixture in Regina? Then again, the Bombers are closer to a championship than the Riders are right now, and LaBatte doesnít have a deep personal connection to the Roughriders from his childhood Ö The good news for Winnipeg is most of their stout defence is under contract for next season Ö The lasting image from the 99th Grey Cup will no doubt be the scrap between Joe Kapp and Angelo Mosca at the CFL alumni luncheon, which started making the rounds on U.S. television on Monday. It was truly one of those only-in-the-CFL moments.
Was that the last game in Bomber blue for defensive end Odell Willis? A lot of people think so, but Iím not so sure. His tweeting two days before the game didnít turn out to be that big of a deal, and Burke said he had been playing better against the run going into the Grey Cup. Then again, he didnít play well at all on Sunday Ö One of the lasting images from Sundayís game will be Willis flopping on the field in despair after dropping that sure interception return for a touchdown Ö Two candidates for the heading coaching position in Regina are Hamilton defensive co-ordinator Corey Chamblin and Burke, who wants to be a head coach. Burkeís defence was much better than Chamblinís this season, but thatís not the biggest reason to hire a head coach Ö Doug Brown didnít have a stat on Sunday, but he still had plenty of push on the line of scrimmage and gave it his all in his final game Ö Questions, questions and more questions: Is Mike Renaud the punter next season? Does Jade Etienne take on any kind of role next season? Does head coach Paul LaPolice get a contract extension for getting the Blue and Gold to the Grey Cup? Ö If the Bombers are going to take anything from their 2007 Grey Cup loss, they need to tinker more with their roster than they did after the setback to Saskatchewan. Everybody on Maroons Road thought everything was hunky dory, and they ended up getting worse in 2008. Complacency had set in, and head coach Doug Berry was fired a few months after getting an extension.