Milt's meter ... rating the bosses

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:25 AM ET

He's the 26th head coach in Winnipeg Blue Bomber history -- but where he stands chronologically won't mean a thing when his term is up.

The big question is, how long will Doug Berry last, and how will he stack up to his predecessors where it matters most: wins and losses?

Over its 75-year history, this franchise has unearthed some of the CFL's all-time great sideline gurus. Bud Grant and Cal Murphy come to mind.

The Bombers have also hired some of the league's all-time busts. Hello, Joe Zaleski and Jeff Reinebold.

Where will the new boss fit in?

We went to one of the longest-serving Bomber players, receiver Milt Stegall, for the answer.

In his 12th season here, Stegall has worked under the last five Bomber head coaches: Murphy, Reinebold, Dave Ritchie, Jim Daley and, now, Berry.

That's a pretty diverse group, in size, shape, personality -- and results.

From Murphy, the kindly curmudgeon who, as coach or GM, helped bring the last three Grey Cups to town, to Reinebold, the free spirit who dragged the team into the CFL basement.

From Ritchie, the grandfatherly overseer who couldn't win the big one in five-plus years at the helm, to Daley, the friendly rebuilder who couldn't make the playoffs in two tries.

One of the most respected players on the team, if not the entire CFL, Stegall's stint with the Bombers has coincided with the second longest Grey Cup drought -- 15 years, and counting -- in the franchise's modern-day history.

A natural leader who says what needs to be said, No. 85 has been referred to as the conscience of the Bombers.

And he didn't mind pointing out what's been missing in the team's coaching ranks over the last 11 years.

Here, then, is Stegall's take on the last four men to lead the Blue and Gold -- and some early thoughts on how Berry compares.

JIM DALEY (2004-05)

We always thought Daley was too nice to be a head coach, and Stegall confirms it.

"Daley's downfall was he wanted everybody to like him," Stegall said. "It got to the point where guys were running over him. He was a nice guy, but as a head coach you have to be like a parent. You have to put the fear in 'em. But he just wanted everyone to like him, and that respect and that fear was never there."

The early returns on Berry suggest his method of putting fear into players won't be through punishment practices or screaming sessions, but rather through direct communication: play poorly, and you won't play.

Players will probably always know where they stand with the new boss -- whether they like it or not.

"I don't think he cares if anybody likes him or not," Stegall said. "Just respect him and understand you're going to do what he says.

"He's politician-nice. He's not going to be your friend, but he's going to be nice enough for you to respect him and like him. As a head coach, you've got to draw that line. You can't let guys get too close to you."

In Daley's defence, Stegall says the guy wasn't dealt a very good hand.

"We didn't have enough talent to be a playoff team last year. And I hate to say that. But that's the truth.

"This year, we have talent."

DAVE RITCHIE (1999-04)

One of the longer serving Bomber head coaches, Ritchie was old-school, and proud of it.

An unwillingness to change, though, may have been his undoing.

It wasn't uncommon to see Ritchie punish his players in practice the week after a bad game.

"I think time just caught up with coach Ritchie," Stegall said. "He was very old-fashioned. We make a mistake, we're on the line run. What are we, back in high school or something?"

It's unlikely Berry will take that tact.

He may have served in the U.S. army, but Berry has rejected the rigid, drill-sergeant type philosophy espoused by other coaches with similar backgrounds.

"He's not old-school like that," Stegall said. "(But) there's definitely an edge to him. He'll get his point across."

Ritchie's other downfall: he was loyal, to a fault, to some of his veteran players.

"No names need to be said," Stegall said. "But some guys were kept around who shouldn't have been around. He loved these guys so much."

It remains to be seen whether or not Berry's loyalty gets him into trouble.

If he picks up on the example set by Don Matthews, his old boss in Montreal, it won't be an issue.

JEFF REINEBOLD (1997-98)

You probably won't find any similarities between Berry and the Harley-riding Reinebold.

Then again, there may never be another Reinebold, who liked to wear flip-flops at practice, but merely flopped at game time.

"Nobody has Reinebold in him," Stegall said. "That's a unique individual. As a person, I love Reinebold. As a head coach, he was given too much power in a short period of time."

Reinebold was not only handed control of the team, but control of the budget, too. And this, for a man who'd never been a head coach, let alone a GM.

It didn't take long to see he was in over his head.

Berry, also a first-year boss, has left Stegall an entirely different early impression.

"He doesn't seem like a rookie coach," Stegall said. "He's well-prepared. He's been waiting for this for a long time."

Stegall says loyalty to certain players was an issue with Reinebold, too: he lost the loyalty of some, by favouring others.

"He had some people on this team who were like his sons. He would let us know these guys are here no matter what. As a head coach, you can't do that."

Like coaches tend to do, Berry has brought in some players he's familiar with, former Montreal Alouettes like defensive back Kelly Malveaux and backup quarterback Mike Quinn.

But so far he's given the impression it's all about what you're doing today, not what you've done in the past.

CAL MURPHY (1983-86, 1993-96)

Murphy will forever be revered by Bomber fans for ending the club's 22-year Grey Cup drought in 1984, then putting together Cup winners as GM in '88 and '90.

Stegall didn't arrive until '95, when those championships, and Murphy's Midas Touch, were a distant memory.

"It was the end of his career," Stegall said. "He was too old-school. He didn't want guys to wear gloves when it was cold outside. He didn't want you to wear (long) sleeves. His method of coaching and teaching was long gone by. He had his success, but by the time I got here... the younger guys weren't buying it anymore."

Soon, the Bomber board of directors weren't buying it, either, and Murphy was fired following the '96 season, thanks in part to a 68-7 playoff loss in Edmonton.

Berry has very little Murphy in him, in that he actually allows his players to practise without pads on a regular basis. That's something he picked up from Matthews in Montreal.

Berry and Murphy have at least one thing in common, though: they're both demanding.

"One thing (Berry) harps on is to just go out there and give effort," Stegall said. "Be gung-ho all the time. Even if you're not in the right place... just give 100% effort."

Stegall says he's convinced Berry is the right man for the job, that he can turn the Bombers back into contenders. His systems are sound, and he has talent to work with.

The rest is up to the players.

"He's going to make sure everything is implemented, everything is done right," Stegall said. "He's going to put us in the right position to go out there and win games."


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