Leaders wantedBombers lost in wilderness
By PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun
We think we may have stumbled upon what's wrong with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Oh, sure, you can talk about the offensive line and the trouble it's had blocking over the first two games, or the defensive line and the way it's treated opposing quarterbacks like dinner guests.
We agree Khari Jones and Charles Roberts haven't looked particularly sharp, either, and this team's secondary remains a work-in-progress.
But what ails this team might run a little deeper than missed assignments or wrong reads.
This team, for whatever reason, doesn't seem to have leaders.
That doesn't mean it doesn't have talented stars. But leaders are different.
Leaders are the kind of players who, when things are going badly, pick up their teammates by the scruff of the neck and drag them out of their funk.
Anybody can lead the way when the sun is shining and the path is well-worn. It's another story when you're lost in the wilderness of an 0-2 start and the wolves are circling.
"In this type of situation is where you need a guy like Chris Walby, who'll grab guys by the throats ... and just get everyone going," kicker Troy Westwood was saying on the eve of tonight's critical tilt with 1-2 Saskatchewan. "That kind of attitude is what we need."
Now, I know what you're thinking: a player who only uses his leg -- and his left one, at that -- has no business opening his mouth about real football matters.
Here's some news for you: kickers have as good a read on the pulse of a team's locker-room as anyone, and better than most. Particularly, one who's been around 13 years and has seen how a player like Walby, the former Bomber great, could seemingly will a team to victory.
"I'm just a kicker," Westwood acknowledged. "I don't know what the answer is. But ... certain guys on the team maybe need to step up and have more of a leadership role -- guys on offence and defence. Just really take the team and run with it."
In case you're still scoffing, get this: we got the same message from Bomber president/CEO Lyle Bauer.
Bauer, you'll recall, was in the trenches, alongside Walby, during this team's last golden era (three Grey Cup titles in seven years, for those too young to remember).
"There needs to be more leadership in that locker-room," Bauer said yesterday. "Leadership comes in many ways, shapes and forms. And it doesn't really matter what form it comes in, as long as it surfaces."
This year, it hasn't.
So where's it going to come from?
Jones has done it in the past, most notably when he's fought through injuries to play some of his most memorable games. He needs to erase doubts that he still has what it takes, and prove he hasn't gone soft.
The same goes for receiver Milt Stegall.
Roberts, on the other hand, isn't a leader. He can't even fulfill his interview requests, a habit that will have him paying more team fines after yesterday.
It's clear the Bombers don't have another Walby on the line. That doesn't mean veterans like Dave Mudge or Matt Sheridan can't whip that unit into shape. Do they have what it takes, though?
On defence, Lamar McGriggs was a leader, but we're not sure what's left of him after head coach Dave Ritchie publicly ripped him following the loss to Ottawa.
Some potential candidates, like Mo Kelly, are the quiet types. Others, such as Terry Ray or Eric Carter, haven't been here long enough.
There are other veterans here, but can they come up with the right combination of words and leading-by-example to lift everyone around them?
If not, this team will, by default, continue to lead itself -- straight into the CFL sewer.