Character on line

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:19 AM ET

Lyle Bauer has been with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for 18 seasons as a player, as a GM, as an assistant GM and as president and CEO -- his current occupation.

And this is the first time in those 18 years that the Bombers have missed the playoffs.

"This is a very new experience," a gloomy Bauer said yesterday. "It doesn't sit well at all."

Bauer wouldn't disclose what he did Sunday night when the Bombers were eliminated from post-season contention after falling 40-34 to the Edmonton Eskimos, but we do know he didn't bake cookies, cuddle with puppies or have a relaxing bath.

"You don't want to know what I did," Bauer said. "This is a family show.

"Things did not work out, but there's a lot of things that haven't necessarily worked out this year ... and in other years they did. What this does for us now is it does not mask the areas that need to be addressed by our football operations people.

"In the past, winning just enough has masked some of those areas. That isn't going to happen."

WHO WILL PAY?

The big question now is: Who's going to pay for Bauer's unhappiness?

Could it be GM Brendan Taman or head coach Jim Daley, whose contract expires on Dec. 31?

"Brendan's our GM and Jim's the head coach, I guess, until otherwise notified," Bauer said. "That's consistent with what's been said before."

It should be noted that those were the same words Bauer uttered in the weeks prior to Dave Ritchie's firing on Aug. 8, but he sounded pleased with the job that Daley has done.

"... Jim Daley inherited a very, very difficult situation, and to his credit he took it on full bore," Bauer said. "There were a lot of things wrong with our football operations. Some of that has been corrected and some of it is in the process of being corrected."

Bauer doesn't sound like he's ready to start purging, either.

"I'm not sure you're going to see any bigger changes than you've seen already," he said. "We did let the head coach go about halfway through the season, traded the quarterback and things along those lines.

"It's probably fair to say that we need to get our guys to focus on Calgary coming in here Friday night and then we'll deal with things after that."

And don't think that Bauer won't be watching when ex-Bomber Khari Jones leads the Calgary Stampeders (4-13) into Canad Inns Stadium on Friday night to play his former team (6-11) in the Meaningless Bowl. The 40 players who suit up for the Blue and Gold had better give everything they have.

"Now we play for pride, and pride is what defines character," Bauer said. "... We still have some very good football players on this team, we have some very good people with the organization, and there's no such thing as a nothing game when you're going into an off-season like we're going to go into."

In other words, this season is far from over.

Not by a long shot.

"We're gonna find out who the real true football players are," Bombers slotback Milt Stegall said. "... You should go out there and play hard because there's millions and millions and millions of people who would love to be in our position, no matter how you look at it."

You can bet that more than a few of those millions will be in Winnipeg next spring when the Bombers open training camp.


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