Grant set the standard

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 1:30 PM ET

When it comes to the long and storied line of head coaches of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers football club, Bud Grant resides at the top of the mountain.

Grant had a legendary career that saw him enshrined in both the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in Hamilton and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Not bad for a guy who originally came to Canada because he felt he was underpaid in the NFL and eventually stumbled upon his passion for coaching.

Grant was born in Superior, Wisc. in 1927 and was a three-sport athlete at the University of Minnesota before trying his hand at a career in the National Basketball Association with the Minnesota Lakers in 1949.

He averaged fewer than three points per game during two seasons before switching over to football, signing with the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL, who had selected him 12th overall in the 1950 draft.

Grant joined the Blue Bombers for the 1953 campaign and spent four seasons playing wide receiver and defensive halfback.

In 1957, Grant began a decade-long odyssey that saw him guide the Blue and Gold to six Grey Cup appearances.

Oddly enough, all six contests were against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Blue Bombers won four of the six head-to-head battles, the closest being a 28-27 victory in 1962.

Grant finished with a regular season record of 102-56-2 and in 1967 was named the second head coach in Minnesota Vikings history, where he would lead the franchise to 11 division championships and four Super Bowl appearances.

THE GOOD TIMES

While he may sit second on the all-time list for wins with the Blue Bombers, Cal Murphy remains one of the most popular coaches in franchise history.

During his two stints -- from 1983 through 1986 and 1993 through 1996 -- Murphy compiled an impressive record of 86-51-1.

Were it not for a setback with his health (Murphy had heart problems), he may have taken a run at Grant's all-time record for victories.

More importantly, Murphy was at the helm when the Blue Bombers erased a 22-year drought by winning the Grey Cup in 1984, coincidentally knocking off the Tiger-Cats once again.

Mike Riley wasn't around that long, but he left his imprint on the Blue Bombers and the CFL by guiding the team to two Grey Cup victories in just four seasons.

Riley's Blue Bombers bested the B.C. Lions 22-21 in 1988, then blew out the Edmonton Eskimos 50-11 in 1990.

Riley compiled a record of 41-31 before leaving to take a job in the NCAA. He would later become head coach of the San Diego Chargers.

Reg Threlfall posted the best winning percentage of any Blue Bombers head coach, leading the team to a record of 28-8 (.778%) during six seasons (1938-1943) and Grey Cup victories in 1939 and 1941.

Bob Fritz has the honour of leading Winnipeg to its first Grey Cup title, beating the Hamilton Tigers 18-12 back in 1935.

No Blue Bombers head coaching list would be complete without the inclusion of Dave Ritchie, who posted a record of 52-44-1 during his four-plus year tenure.

Ritchie was criticized, at times, for his "us-against-the-world" attitude and inability to help the Blue Bombers end the Grey Cup drought, but his knack for getting a sinking franchise back on stable ground is to be commended.

The pinnacle of success for Ritchie came in 2001, when he led the team to a 14-4 record and captured the East Division final over the Tiger-Cats before losing to the Calgary Stampeders in the Grey Cup game.

THE BAD TIMES

Joe Zaleski was at the helm of the Blue and Gold for three seasons, 1967 through 1969 and holds the poorest record for any head coach who spent more than one season on the job.

Zaleski's Bombers squads went 10-37-1 during three seasons.

One of the leanest years came in 1970 as the Blue Bombers slipped to 2-14 under Jim Spavital, who guided the team to a respectable 21-25-1 record during his final three seasons as head coach.

Fred Ritter was the first head coach in the Winnipeg Football Club's history, guiding the team through a winless 0-4 season back in 1930.

THE UGLY TIMES

It was supposed to be the dawn of a new era when the flamboyant Jeff Reinebold was brought on board to replace Murphy for the start of the 1997 season.

What it turned out to be was an unmitigated disaster as the Blue Bombers became the butt of many CFL jokes and ended up having problems both on and off the field.

When it was all said and done, the Reinebold regime had posted a record of 6-26 and left a mess that took several years to clean up.

KEY DATES IN BOMBER HISTORY:

1998 -- Winnipeg plays host to its second Grey Cup Game, with the Calgary Stampeders beating Hamilton 26-24 n a last-minute field goal.

2001 -- Calgary Stampeders defeated the Blue Bombers 27-19 in Winnipeg's last Grey Cup appearance. Receivers Marc Boerigter and Travis Moore, as well as linebacker Willie Fells scored Calgary's touchdowns. Receivers Arland Bruce III and Milt Stegall scored the Bomber TDs but Troy Westwood whiffed three field goal tries.


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