Blue up the creek?Next three games will tell if paddle lost
By PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun
Listening to some Winnipeg Blue Bomber fans these days, it's time to load up the raft and send it down the Red River, floating the quarterback, some coaches, even the GM, out of town for good.
It's an understandable position, actually.
Because at the halfway point of what was supposed to be another contending season, the Bombers are a mess at 3-6, after Tuesday's 14-6 loss in Toronto.
It's their worst first half since 2000, and if the CFL playoffs began today, this team would join bottom-feeders Hamilton and Calgary on the outs.
A once-dominant defence, subject of a youth movement this year, has moved, all right -- to the bottom half of the CFL's rankings.
What's worse, this team isn't even fun to watch anymore, thanks to an offence that's going through the world's longest identity crisis.
Khari Jones looks like a quarterback who's lost his confidence. The offensive line is badly outplayed, virtually every week. And a veteran group of receivers continues to be put to shame by a rookie named Derrick Smith.
So why not just clean house?
Because you can't.
It's hard enough to find one capable starter mid-season, let alone a handful.
The Bombers, basically, are what they are for the rest of the year. And that might not be such a bad thing.
At the risk of sounding like a complete lunatic, I'd say this team is actually making some progress.
In the three games before head coach Dave Ritchie was canned, the Bombers were losing by an average of more than 20 points, remember? They weren't even playing hard, a fact new boss Jim Daley duly noted yesterday.
"If you think back three, four or five games, the issue was how we played the game, what our effort was," Daley was saying. "When you have the effort the guys had (Tuesday) night, you have a chance to get better."
Don't forget, the Bombers were playing their third game in 11 days against the Argos, who've allowed the fewest points in the league.
So was an eight-point loss that disastrous, particularly on the heels of a solid win over Edmonton?
Another thing: Daley hasn't really been given a chance. He took over in the middle of this three-in-11 stretch, and has just been keeping his head above water.
This week and next, for the first time, he has a full slate of practices to prepare for a visit by, gulp, the Montreal Alouettes.
After that it's a home-and-home with Saskatchewan.
These next three games will tell us exactly where this team stands. Not the first seven, marred by the Ritchie mess, and certainly not the last one.
If the Bombers are headed for a winter roster-gutting, we'll likely know it by mid-September.
That doesn't mean there won't be a move or two in the short term. Possibly even a dramatic one.
HITCHED HIS WAGON
Daley knows Smith has to keep playing, which means if and when Milt Stegall is ready, a decision will have to made. Stegall, Robert Gordon or, more likely, Reggie Jones could be gone.
As for the quarterbacks, don't expect anything drastic. Daley has already hitched his wagon to Khari Jones. And as mediocre as he's been this season, Jones remains the best option.
My theory: too many hits, too many different philosophies from too many offensive co-ordinators and a weakened receiving corps has left Jones a shell of the quarterback he was from 2000-'02.
He may never recover, and the same goes for these Bombers, a ship that had been heading the wrong way for close to a year.
If it doesn't begin turning these next few weeks, then it's time to break out the rafts and start loading 'em up.