Testing their prideWinless Bombers have to be fired up for 'Riders
By PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun
His team is off to its worst start in four years, the players he recruited aren't living up to expectations and the head coach he dearly wants to protect is on the firing line.
Making matters worse, it's beginning to look like selling tickets this season will be a real challenge.
Oh, and did we mention that going into tomorrow's critical matchup against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, two of the team's starting receivers have pulled up lame, one after being stepped on by a teammate in practice?
So, Brendan Taman, enjoying that new job generally managing the Winnipeg Blue Bombers?
WELCOME TO THE BIG CHAIR
"Welcome to the big chair -- it's fun to be here," Taman cracked yesterday.
Give the guy credit for keeping his sense of humour. Because that, and his sanity, will surely be the first to go if things don't turn around in a hurry in Bomberland.
The former vice-president of player personnel, you'll recall, was promoted to the GM's job, amid much fanfare, this past off-season.
Here he is, still winless as a GM -- and we're into July.
Cranking up the pressure a few more notches is the status of coach Dave Ritchie, on the last year of his contract and, if the losing should continue, on his last legs as the field boss.
There's a dark cloud hovering over the Bomber offices on Maroons Road, and it's threatening to dump its load all over this team.
It's been there since a home-field loss to these same Roughriders in last season's West Division Semifinal, a game that sticks in Taman's craw like a piece of gristle from last night's steak.
Even when he tried to forget about it, he couldn't.
"Every day in the winter, up until May, I had to look up on the scoreboard saying, 'Winnipeg and Saskatchewan' up on the board in our end zone," Taman said. "Every time I'd look up, there was that reminder of that game. God dang. I told Dave before the season, he should just make the team do push-ups in front of it all the time. If that wasn't enough incentive to get you going, what would be?"
Taman hopes that same feeling has permeated the Bomber locker-room this week, and that it'll make up for an offence, still searching for its identity, that will be without veterans Reggie Jones and Robert Gordon tomorrow.
Jones was the team's best receiver in a Week 1 loss to Ottawa. Gordon, the Bombers best weapon in a Week 2 loss in Hamilton, can't go because he was stepped on in practice.
The way Taman sees it, that stomping administered by the 'Riders last November should make up for the loss of experience.
"There (are) some guys on our team that should be a little bit fired up," he said. "We're 0-2 and this is the team that beat you out of the playoffs. You've got a D-lineman peeing on your quarterback, and then running with their flag on your field ... that charges me up a little bit. It should charge them up."
Taman was referring to the 'Riders Nate Davis, who played Fido to Khari Jones' fire hydrant in the West semi, and running back Kenton Keith, who ran up and down the field with the ball before doing the same thing with a 'Riders flag after the game.
Saskatchewan not only steamrolled the Bombers that day, they backed the thing up and ran over the flattened corpse again and again.
Seven months later, we're about to find out if this limping, aging football team has any pride left. If they can't get up for this one, you might as well start filling out those toe-tags.
"It's very, very, very big," Taman said. "Our confidence needs to be boosted quickly here, and this is the game to get it done. Because if it doesn't happen, it can really get out of control."
And that nice new GM's chair will get awfully uncomfortable in a hurry.