It's no surprise that the only two coaches the Winnipeg Blue Bombers retained from last year's staff work with the offence.
"I tried to keep them on offence because I know what the situation was on defence last year," Blue Bombers incoming head coach Doug Berry said yesterday after announcing that offensive co-ordinator Mike Gibson and receivers coach Bobby Dyce will be on his staff in 2006.
"You don't demand respect, you earn it, and that's why I kept the guys that I did on this staff. They have tremendous respect from the players, and that was so important."
The situation on defence which Berry referred to was pretty much hopeless. The team gave up a league record number of yards while compiling a 5-13 record and was in complete turmoil after defensive co-ordinator Rod Rust left for personal reasons in mid-season.
A LOT OF PROMISE
On offence, however, there was a lot of promise. Players like quarterback Kevin Glenn, running back Charles Roberts, receiver Milt Stegall and a once-maligned offensive line flourished under the guidance of Gibson, who also retains his position as offensive line coach.
Roberts was the league's top rusher (1,624 yards), Bomber quarterbacks were fourth in the CFL in touchdown passes with 31, the offensive line allowed the third-lowest number of quarterback sacks with 31, and the team scored 474 points.
Berry, who joined the Bombers after working as an assistant with Montreal, plans to bring the Alouettes playbook west and mix it in with what the Bombers were doing last year.
"Somebody has to tie it all together, and that's what (Gibson) is going to be here for. He's familiar with what they did last year. I want Mike to be intent on putting together a good offence, making sure it's all cohesive and then paying particular attention to the run game."
A lot the offensive responsibility will fall to the QBs coach, a position which has not yet been filled.
"There are two guys I want to know who can handle the passing game," Berry said. "One is the quarterback himself, and the other is the quarterbacks coach."
Berry also named Cory McDiarmid the Bombers new running backs and special teams coach and Gregg Butler defensive backs coach. McDiarmid was with the Alouettes in the same position last year, and Butler worked with Berry in Montreal from 1999-2001. He was most recently defensive co-ordinator at Morgan State University in Baltimore.
Berry is expected to name Greg Marshall, who was a candidate for the Bombers head coaching job, as defensive co-ordinator and Richard Harris as defensive line coach. Both coaches had the same positions with the Ottawa Renegades last year.
"It's important that a message is sent to the players," Berry said. "They need to perceive that change is being made."
Gibson, who signed a two-year contract before last season, could not be reached for comment, but Dyce, a native Winnipegger, said being carried over after a coaching purge was gratifying.
"It gives verification to the fact that we were doing some good things," Dyce said. "We were part of the solution more so than part of the challenge."
Dyce was retained by Berry in part because of the recommendation of Stegall, one of the CFL's all-time greatest receivers.
"Milt's a quality individual, and to hear that obviously makes me feel proud and realize that I am doing some things right," said Dyce, who is already pumped about trying Montreal's systems and working with his new head coach.
"They have tons of 1,000-yard receivers over there in Montreal, so I'm eager. Boy, I wish the season started tomorrow."