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 teamís on the right track, Iím not so sure.

Sure, this is the CFLís youngest group, which on the surface sounds great.

Itís a far cry from the last Grey Cup obituary I wrote, thatís for sure.

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

That wasnít a team on the rise, and it quickly showed in í08.

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

Itís loaded with personality, too, and thatís 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, Iíd be surprised if the Bombers keep the Mayor of Tweetville around.

Their D-line is deep, and I canít 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, itís not time for another change. Weíve 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 theyíd 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 didnít have a very good Grey Cup, or season, for that matter, but I donít see a better quarterback on the roster, or the market.

And heís 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, heís 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-20ís.

Carrís contract is up, and drawing up another one for him ASAP would be wise.

Whatís not to like: heís big, talented and hated losing as much as anyone, Sunday.

ďThis is my first time ever feeling like this,Ē Carr said. ďAnd itís my last time, if I have anything to do with it.Ē

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

ďIím not going to stop until I get that feeling they have out there right now,Ē he said. ďWhatever it takes. Rain, sleet, snow or hail, Iím going to get myself through it to get there and make sure I feel what theyíre feeling right now.Ē

Asked about his and the teamís future, Carr used the term, ďpromising.Ē

But as good a job as Mack and LaPolice have done in rebuilding the teamís 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 donít think this team is that bad. But it obviously wasnít as good as its 7-1 start, either.

Itís 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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