Show him the money

New Bomber head coach Doug Berry smiles while trying on a Bomber cap. (Brian Donogh/Winnipeg...

New Bomber head coach Doug Berry smiles while trying on a Bomber cap. (Brian Donogh/Winnipeg Sun)

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 2:29 PM ET

I've got one final question for the brain trust of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on the hiring of Doug Berry as their new head coach.

You got the guy you wanted, fellas. Now, are you going to give him the tools to be successful?

Because let's face it, Moses could take over this club and, forced to use the same players as last season, even he couldn't prevent that defence from parting like the Red Sea every week.

Berry's former employer, Montreal Alouettes GM Jim Popp, summed it up nicely the other day.

"Obviously, the Bombers have work to do," Popp said. "Don't expect miracles right off the bat."

No, the masses here in Winnipeg aren't expecting the new guy to walk on the Red River, at least not after, say, mid-April.

GOT TO STOP

But this business of trying to feed 25,000 or so football fans with just a handful of wins each year has got to stop.

This town is starving for a playoff team. Two seasons on the outs is a long time in a nine-team league, never mind the 15 years without a championship.

To get there, though, the Bombers are going to have to change the way they do business.

I'm talking about doing better scouting and spending a little more money.

Not blowing up the budget, just giving it a little steroid injection. Guaranteed to enhance performance. And it's not against the rules, because there aren't any in the CFL.

"I don't know what the budget is," Berry said. "I've been led to believe we're going to spend what we need to spend to be competitive."

Well, Mr. Berry, we can tell you, with near certainty, your new employer is one of the more frugal organizations, if not the most frugal, in the league. We can't be 100% sure because CFL types, in their short-sighted, self-preserving way, keep these things very hush-hush.

In president/CEO Lyle Bauer's defence, he doesn't have a lot of wiggle room. The community-based board of directors he answers to isn't about to let him run up a deficit, not with the club just six years removed from near-bankruptcy.

But if the last two years have taught us anything, it's that any savings you may accrue by either letting your better players go (hello, Brian Clark), signing second-tier free agents (where are you, Wane McGarity?) or recycling other team's discards (come on down, William Fields) are gobbled up by the dwindling crowds that result.

Conversely, shelling out a little more coin in key areas will pay off if the team actually plays entertaining, winning football, because it'll put more bums in the seats.

"To me, it's identifying some things we need in key positions," Berry said.

"If a team is spending big money for a player at a position that's not critical, then you're misusing your finances."

We can only wonder how the new guy will feel about his two defensive tackles (Doug Brown and Joe Fleming) pulling down close to $300,000, combined, while the starting quarterback he inherits (Kevin Glenn) earned about a third of that last season.

We also wonder how Berry will react the first time he asks GM Brendan Taman to pursue a certain free agent, or re-sign a certain player, only to be told they don't have the money.

To paraphrase the line from the Wizard of Oz: You're not in Montreal anymore, Mr. Berry.

"That has not bothered me," Berry insisted. "Lyle asked me that in the interview, and he thought there would be a tremendous difference. I don't see it that way."

Trust us. There's a difference.

But we're not going to let this organization lean on the crutch of poverty. That's far too easy a cop-out.

The spending gap isn't so big that a smart, team effort can't overcome it.

It's not the Red Sea.


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