Go with the gut

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:19 AM ET

It struck me yesterday that Brendan Taman and Lyle Bauer have one of the toughest gigs around this week.

Next to Santa Claus, that is.

While the big guy in the red suit gets ready to go roof-hopping with a sleigh full of gifts in tow, the brain-trust of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers is busy trying to sort out the naughty names from the nice on their list of coaching candidates.

Hanging on their decision: a lot more than a happy Christmas.

More like the future of this community-owned franchise for the next several years.

You see, the Grey Cup is coming to Winnipeg next year, and that doesn't happen often. When it does, you'd better cash in.

Sell the place out and create a buzz around the Cup festival, and the Bombers will sock at least $2 million into their bank account.

Turn football fans off in the preceding 12 months, and they could well stay in debt.

Well, the first golden opportunity to create a buzz is at hand, when Taman, the Bomber GM, and Bauer, the president/CEO, name the 26th head coach in franchise history.

It's also an opportunity for a Big Blue bust.

At the risk of sending Bomber fans into frightening flashbacks, we take you back to the 1996-97 holiday season, the last time the organization undertook this extensive a search for a sideline boss.

That exercise produced Jeff Reinebold.

Two years, seven wins and much anguish later, the Bombers took the man they passed over the first time, hiring Dave Ritchie.

Ritchie, of course, gave way to then-Bomber assistant Jim Daley, whose ouster last month created the head-hunting search that's coming to a head this week.

By now, Taman has done so much research on the applicants, he should know what colour of underwear they prefer.

In the end, how do you make a decision like this?

You probably go with your gut.

Take Cal Murphy, who hired one of the most successful coaches in Bomber history when he gave Mike Riley the job back in 1987.

Oh, Murphy knew Riley knew his stuff, having previously had Riley on his own coaching staff. But when it came time for Murphy, the GM, to hire his first head man, he went with his gut.

"You try to get a feel for how you'd work with him," Murphy told me from his home in Regina yesterday. "I started thinking about it and thought, well, he's a contrast from me. So I did it that way."

Two Grey Cup championships over the next four years suggest Murphy's instincts were bang-on.

Not even Kindly Cal was right all the time, though. His hiring of NFL coach Darryl Rogers in '91 was a mistake.

By dumping Daley, Taman and Bauer admitted they made a mistake promoting him. They can't afford another.

So who will it be?

My gut tells me it's the first person I talked to about the job: former Edmonton and Ottawa defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall.

The guy impressed me the first time I met him, in Edmonton a few years back. When he was passed over in favour of Danny Maciocia for the Eskimos head job a year ago, he bolted for Ottawa.

Some might say he did nothing for his reputation there, but I'd disagree.

One comment Marshall made this past season told me more about the man than all the defensive statistics in the world.

You may recall Ottawa head coach Joe Paopao's future was hanging in the balance all season. You might also remember how word got out that Renegades chief scout, John Jenkins, was promised Paopao's job, should the Renegades suffer another losing season.

Marshall had the courage to publicly question that little arrangement, suggesting that perhaps Jenkins was in a "conflict of interest" position.

And Jenkins could have been his next boss.

That's gutsy.

Like I said, go with the gut.


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