Bombers close but so far away

Blue Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce congratulates Lions quarterback Travis Lulay after the Lions...

Blue Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce congratulates Lions quarterback Travis Lulay after the Lions won the CFL's 99th Grey Cup game at BC Place in Vancouver, B.C., Nov. 27, 2011. (ANDRE FORGET/QMI Agency)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:56 PM ET

VANCOUVER - So, now what?

Another Winnipeg Blue Bombers season ends the wrong way, and as easy as it would be to say everything is rosy and this team’s on the right track, I’m not so sure.

Sure, this is the CFL’s youngest group, which on the surface sounds great.

It’s a far cry from the last Grey Cup obituary I wrote, that’s for sure.

Four years ago, 10 Bomber starters, more than one-third of the roster, overall, were on the dark side of 30.

That wasn’t a team on the rise, and it quickly showed in ’08.

This time around, just five starters — Doug Brown, Terrence Edwards, Buck Pierce, Obby Khan and Steve Morley — are 30 or older, and Brown is packing it in, leaving a defence loaded with youth and speed.

It’s loaded with personality, too, and that’s fine, except for the antics of Odell Willis.

After what happened during Grey Cup week, his poor play on Sunday and the fact he went his last six games without a sack, I’d be surprised if the Bombers keep the Mayor of Tweetville around.

Their D-line is deep, and I can’t imagine GM Joe Mack and head coach Paul LaPolice want the aggravation.

There are more problems, though, on the other side of the ball.

Which just so happens to be the area of expertise for LaPolice, who has one more year on his contract.

It was a head-scratching unit Coach LaPo put on the field this season, leading the league in two-and-outs and big plays.

No, it’s not time for another change. We’ve had way too much of that around here.

Expect Mack, the GM, to reward his coach with an extension of some kind in the near future.

Then they’d better get to work, with a priority on finding O-linemen and a quarterback, because protecting Buck Pierce for the short-term, while they beat the bushes for the quarterback of the future, is Job 1.

Pierce didn’t have a very good Grey Cup, or season, for that matter, but I don’t see a better quarterback on the roster, or the market.

And he’s still one helluva leader, no matter what Geroy Simon says.

Allowing guard Brendon LaBatte to test free agency would be a huge mistake. Still just 25, he’s a guy you build a line around.

You can build a receiving corps around people like Greg Carr and Clarence Denmark, too, both in their mid-20’s.

Carr’s contract is up, and drawing up another one for him ASAP would be wise.

What’s not to like: he’s big, talented and hated losing as much as anyone, Sunday.

“This is my first time ever feeling like this,” Carr said. “And it’s my last time, if I have anything to do with it.”

Carr lingered on the field more than most of his teammates, watching the Lions celebrate, before retreating to the Bomber locker-room.

“I’m not going to stop until I get that feeling they have out there right now,” he said. “Whatever it takes. Rain, sleet, snow or hail, I’m going to get myself through it to get there and make sure I feel what they’re feeling right now.”

Asked about his and the team’s future, Carr used the term, “promising.”

But as good a job as Mack and LaPolice have done in rebuilding the team’s image, not to mention its won-loss record, there are reasons to wonder if this is the combination that will eventually bring a Grey Cup to Winnipeg.

In its last 12 games, their team won four. If that trend continues into next season, Bomber fans are looking at a 6-12 campaign, and that would have the wolves howling again.

I don’t think this team is that bad. But it obviously wasn’t as good as its 7-1 start, either.

It’s a decent, middle-of-the-pack team playing in a mediocre division.

So close to the Grey Cup, Sunday.

But still so far away.


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