Rebuild a cop-out

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:37 AM ET

Tom Higgins wasn't sending any damning messages to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers -- at least, not knowingly.

But the Calgary Stampeders head coach made some interesting comments upon his arrival here yesterday, comments that might make a Winnipeg football fan sit up and take notice.

Higgins was asked if this was a rebuilding year for the Stamps, considering they're coming off a 4-14 season and have changed pretty much everything except their nickname and team colours.

The Stamps are breaking in new owners, a new GM, a new head coach and a new starting quarterback -- an undertaking that sounds a lot like rebuilding, if you ask me.

"We've never used that word," Higgins said. "Football is now. Rebuilding is a cop-out."

Higgins may as well have walked up to Bomber head coach Jim Daley and slapped him across the face.

It is Daley, after all, who trotted out the "rebuilding" term to describe the Bombers early in training camp, repeating it like a mantra since.

This week, he even compared the challenge to that of fixing the 1-17 Hamilton Tiger-Cats of 2003.

LONG WAY TO GO

"We're in a situation today, this year, where other teams have found themselves over the years," Daley said. "No different than Saskatchewan did four or five years ago ... no different than Hamilton had to do a couple of years ago. We are a team that has a long way to go."

There's something wrong with this picture.

A team that won seven games last season, and went 5-6 after a coaching change put Daley at the helm, is virtually conceding it doesn't have a hope of competing with Edmonton and B.C. in the CFL West.

And in walks this four-win laughing stock, dressed to the nines, we might add (did you see Jeremaine Copeland's get-up?), proclaiming it's going to be right back in the thick of the race?

That's right, the Stamps say there's no reason they can't compete with the big boys.

"We hope to by the middle or end of the season, yes," Higgins said.

The Bombers, through two weeks, give you the distinct impression they're not even ready to compete with Calgary.

I mean, 22 first downs in two games? A paltry 245 yards of total offence, while the opposition has racked-up better than 1,000?

Defensive lineman Jon Oosterhuis is tied for the team lead in offensive touchdowns, with one, for crying out loud.

Yes, we realize expectations were an anvil around former boss Dave Ritchie's neck, ever since that 14-4 season in '01.

But the weight of low expectation can drag you down just as quickly.

The Bombers aren't ready to compete with Calgary? Give me a break.

And don't give me the song and dance about the Stamps buying their way back into contention.

Yes, Copeland came with a price-tag to match his suit, and quarterback Henry Burris was attracted to Cowtown by the bills, not the hills.

But Winnipeg re-signed one of the highest paid defensive players in the league in Joe Fleming, and has at least five players in the six-figure club.

One of them, receiver Milt Stegall, is hurt and won't play tonight, which undoubtedly hurts the Bomber cause.

Another, Dave Mudge, is one of many players who haven't played up to expectations.

Then again, maybe they have.

Well, we've got news for this organization: Bomber fans expect a hell of a lot more.

And if this team doesn't give Calgary all it can handle tonight, then these small crowds are only going to get smaller.

Good luck trying to rebuild that.


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