Expect GM to buck odds again

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

A question to ponder as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers open their rookie training camp today: what's a longer shot -- the Bombers winning the Grey Cup this year, or GM Brendan Taman surviving the season?

Bowman's International, the online betting service, has weighed in on the first topic, installing the Bombers as 15-1 underdogs to win it all.

They're not offering odds on Taman keeping his job, so we will.

And we say the guy's here to stay.

After all, he's coming off a season in which the Bombers finished on top of the CFL.

Say what?

It's true. No CFL GM had a better winter than Taman.

It began in December, when he landed what most CFL observers figure will be the next solid head coach, in former Montreal assistant Doug Berry.

Over the next few months, the little guy from Saskatoon went on a player shopping spree, scoring CFL vets Barrin Simpson, Donnavan Carter and Duncan O'Mahony through free agency, Albert Johnson III, Ron Warner and Onterrio Smith from the NFL, Kelly Malveaux in a trade and Kyries Hebert in a sneaky waiver wire move.

That's five probable starters on defence, maybe one on offence, a punter to replace Jon Ryan and, in Smith, a mouth-watering talent that's got to be the early favourite to win the CFL rookie-of-the-year award.

Oh, and did we mention Taman also used the Ottawa dispersal draft to rebuild the Bomber O-line, grab a promising quarterback and vastly improve his Canadian talent?

If the wolves at Taman's door last fall haven't disappeared, they've certainly faded into the background, their howls down to a whimper.

Taman, though, isn't convinced it's safe for him to venture out, just yet.

"Talk to me in about six months and I'll give you the answer," he said. "It's like the Ottawa Senators in hockey: yeah, they're going to win the Stanley Cup (pause for dramatic effect). No, they're not.

"It's win or go home. If we win, everything takes care of itself. If we lose ... I won't be here."

OK, there's some truth to that. This is one time where the GM won't be able to blame the coach for not using his talent properly. Since Taman just hired the coach, that won't wash.

But listening to the GM's boss yesterday, it sounded like there'll be no need to start a Taman watch just because the Bombers lose a game or two to start the season.

In fact, team president/CEO Lyle Bauer gives the impression the guy was never standing on a trap door to begin with.

"I don't know if it's any different than any other season," Bauer said. "Brendan has, almost annually, gone out and found the rookies of the year or runners-up and made some very good trades. Maybe not as much focus has been on him as this year. So people are watching more closely.

"There's a lot of things you see internally that maybe don't get exposed externally. He's working extremely well with Doug, acquiring what the head coach wants. That's Brendan's job, and certainly he's responded. The off-season's been very encouraging."

Sounds like the verdict's in, doesn't it?

It also sounds like Bauer and Bowman's International aren't reading from the same book.

Bowman's has the Bombers at the bottom of the CFL heap, way back of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who are next at 8-1 longshots. Defending champion Edmonton is the favourite, at 3-1 odds.

"Unfortunately, it would probably be illegal for me to bet," Bauer said. "But those are pretty good odds. Some people might want to take them."

And then Bauer delivered this little gem.

"This team has as good a shot as the other seven."

We're not so sure about that.

But we are convinced the GM has done what he can, for now.

So it's over to you, Doug Berry.


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