Blue should benefit from Shivers firing

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

This could be perfect timing for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

I'm talking about the firing of Saskatchewan Roughriders GM Roy Shivers this week.

Generally, when teams fire head coaches, they get a short-term lift. I'm not so sure that's going to happen with the axing of the shoot-from-the-lip GM in Regina.

In fact, don't be surprised if the Roughriders go into the tank the second half of the season, which includes back-to-back games against the Bombers, Sept. 3 and 10.

Because when players and coaches raise the possibility of being distracted or set back by a front office move, it's almost certain to happen.

Take 'Riders defensive co-ordinator Richie Hall's reaction to the firing.

"Disappointed. Very, very, very disappointed," Hall told the Globe and Mail. "The players here are a bunch of fighters. They deal with adversity well, but I believe this is a setback right now."

There it is, an excuse to lose, thrown out for all players to see, and grab onto, if they so choose.

Shivers firing is a setback, all right.

It's a setback for head coach Danny Barrett, who carries the added title of assistant GM and whom Shivers was grooming to be his successor, as early as next season.

It's also a setback for Hall, who carries the added title of assistant head coach and who was the logical successor to Barrett.

You know what they say about the best-laid succession plans.

Barrett's and Hall's careers, intrinsically linked with Shivers, are suddenly one big question mark.

Barrett has to be the most nervous guy in Regina right now, because the new GM (Eric Tillman, we presume) might take one look at his record (52-64-1) and wonder why he's been around seven years.

How will it all play out?

"We've got the team going in the right direction," slotback Jason French told the Regina Leader-Post. "We don't need anything like this distracting us now."

It's too late for that.

BOTH BARRELS: Leave it to Shivers to go down guns-a-blazing. The guy's never been afraid to speak his mind.

His last salvo was directed at the two men who canned him: Roughriders chairman Graham Barker and president/CEO Jim Hopson.

"I can't work for (Hopson) because I dislike him and I don't trust him," Shivers told the Leader-Post. "Graham came in all cotton-mouthed and Hopson sat there being ugly and they told me that since I wasn't going to be here next year they were going to fire me. I told them, "I don't care why, as long as you pay me my money.'

"I really don't give a s--- what they do now."

Shivers' work as a GM was good -- he did raise the bar from pitifully low in Regina -- but not great.

He will go down as one of the most outspoken characters the CFL has seen.

And we'll miss him for that.

TURTLE MAN SLOWING: We know Milt Stegall will go down as one of the best receivers in CFL history.

But will he leave as the league's all-time touchdown leader?

Once presumed to be automatic, Stegall's assault on the record held by Mike Pringle and George Reed (137 TDs) has slowed to a crawl, mainly because he's missed two games, and counting, with cracked ribs.

That'll be four weeks on the shelf for an injury the Bombers originally said was nothing.

Assuming he misses just one more game, this Friday against Toronto, Stegall will have just eight games to score the five touchdowns he needs to break the record.

Healthy or not, that's no sure thing.

And if he doesn't do it this season, does No. 85 even play another year?

This is starting to look like former Bomber Elfrid Payton's chase of the all-time sack record -- a chase that ended tantalizingly short.


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