Wheels fell off the Blue

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:48 AM ET

Rebuilding, rebuilding, rebuilding.

The word was repeated ad nauseum. Just like the season that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and their most faithful fans suffered through.

Head coach Jim Daley, who had been promoted from interim head man, made no bones about the fact that he was essentially breaking the entire team down to attempt to mould it into a contender. And called it rebuilding. Repeatedly. Some called it a ready-made excuse for losing.

In reality, as Daley was also fond of saying, the failed project started when the Bombers dealt quarterback Khari Jones to Calgary in a cloak-and-dagger deal conducted in the dead of night toward the end of the 2004 campaign. The Bombers ditched an ailing passer to gamble on the promising Kevin Glenn but that seemed to cut the heart out of the team, even if Jones was on his last legs. Winnipeg got Joe Fleming, Wes Lysack and Scott Regimbald in exchange and still failed to make the playoffs in either 2004 or '05. In fact, the Bombers even traded Lysack back to Calgary.

The blockbuster deal started an influx of former Stampeders to Winnipeg because Daley was familiar with them, never mind that they all came from a losing program. Those players included Wane McGarity, Willie Fells, William Fields, Omar Evans, Antwone Young and Darnell McDonald. Only Evans and Fields remain with the team.

WORK-IN-PROGRESS

The Bombers also released Moe Elewonibi and traded Dave Mudge while adding Mike Abou-Mechrek, Spergon Wynn, Aaron Fiacconi and recruiting Gavin Walls and Dan Goodspeed. They lost Mo Kelly to retirement and never were able to replace him. The Bombers also lost Ricky Bell and Orlando Bobo over contract disputes on the eve of training camp.

The offensive line was a work-in-progress throughout training camp and the opening weeks of the season. So was the secondary -- all year long. Kevin Glenn missed three games due to injury and the much-hyped Tee Martin was a bust as his replacement. And Daley steadfastly refused to replace him. The offence was also dogged by dropped passes by Kamau Peterson, another ex-Stamp, and McGarity and the Bombers finally rid themselves of both. They acquired Chris Brazzell, who became an immediate hit with the fans. Suddenly, Winnipeg had a potent attack, even if Daley refused to use Regimbald in short-yardage situations.

Placekicker Troy Westwood struggled in the early going while Jon Ryan set the unofficial record for having the most punts blocked (five). And after starting the season with a bang, kick returner Keith Stokes fizzled in the second half. He did, however, excel at receiver.

Bombers never did settle on a starting secondary, the linebacking disintegrated without Kelly and the defence set the all-time CFL record for futility.

On the bright side, Walls was named the CFL's top rookie, Charles Roberts led the CFL in rushing, Ryan set a punting record and Milt Stegall achieved another receiving milestone.

But the bottom line was 5-13 which cost Daley his job and put Brendan Taman's GM job in jeopardy. Daley was eventually replaced by former Montreal offensive co-ordinator Doug Berry, who will start re-, uh, tooling the team in the New Year. And with the Grey Cup coming to Winnipeg in 2006, we all hope it will be much better than that old, re-building year.


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