Is anybody listening?

Less Browne is trying to get it through to the Bombers secondary that they can't rely on natural...

Less Browne is trying to get it through to the Bombers secondary that they can't rely on natural ability alone, they've got to study. (Winnipeg Sun/Brian Donogh)

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

At first, Less Browne wanted to plead The Fifth, afraid of what he might say.

And who could blame him?

One of the CFL's all-time great pass defenders, Browne is coaching the Winnipeg Blue Bombers secondary for the first time this year, which is kind of like Bobby Orr coaching a team of Dave Semenkos.

This is the same group of defensive backs that's given up more touchdown passes than anybody this season. The same group that's yielding the highest average gain per pass, and been scorched for more than 1,000 yards in the last two games, alone.

Chew on this: in just two weeks, the Bombers have surrendered more than one-third the passing yardage the Montreal Alouettes have given up (2,923) all year.

Browne has to not only watch the plundering occur live, he's forced to revisit the whole thing on film, week after week. Then try to correct it.

LIKE TALKING TO KIDS

"It's like talking to my kids," Browne was saying. "You know, 'Pick up your clothes, go brush your teeth, make sure you put deodorant on' -- it's like talkin' to my kids, every day."

And, ahem, how would you say it's been working, coach?

"It hasn't so far," Browne said, managing to put a smile on his face and keep who-knows-what on the tip of his tongue.

Take a look at the Bombers coaching staff and nowhere is there a greater dichotomy.

Browne has more interceptions than anybody in CFL history, yet his DBs can't seem to make a play.

"He was the ultimate playmaker," said mid-season addition Stephen Fisher, who, this Friday against Hamilton, takes the revolving door back into the starting lineup. "He's trying to get the guys to go and do what he did. You just wait. You can't count the Bombers secondary out, because we're loaded with talent."

Most fans watching them against the Lions and Alouettes would say they're full of something else. But I digress.

What's really puzzling is why just a little bit of Browne's influence hasn't rubbed off.

It can't be they haven't heard the guy, because Browne brings the same fire to his coaching gig that he brought as a player.

"If he has a problem with something you did, you don't want to hear about it from him," Fisher said. "But the praise comes at the same level as the scorn."

That's the thing -- Browne was praising his DBs as far back as training camp. So what happened?

"They're good kids," Browne said. "They're just young. I tell you what, this is the same group of kids you're going to see around somewhere else -- maybe not here -- but you'll see somewhere else in a few years and they'll be very damn good."

The way Browne sees it, it's simply a matter of finishing. Too often, a defender is in the right spot when the ball arrives, but doesn't break up the pass.

It's a problem Browne says he had at one point in his career.

What helped turn him around was a conversation he had with former CFLer Terry Evanshen, who'd just been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

"He said, 'They pay me to practice. I play the game for free,' " Browne recalled. "Everybody should take on that attitude."

In other words, you work your tail off in practice, and the rest takes care of itself.

"They've got to be more studious of the game," Browne said. "And they've got to put more into it. They're thinking their natural athletic ability is going to take them through. It doesn't work.

"So you better work. Or you're just going to be at the bottom, sinking -- slowly drowning your way out of the game."

Here we are, about 15 years after Browne's conversation with Evanshen, and he finds himself handing out his own Hall of Fame advice.

Whether anyone's listening or not is another story.


Videos

Photos