There for the taking

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:38 AM ET

We could sit here and rail at the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for not bringing in an experienced backup quarterback this year.

After all, it was one of the big questions marks on this team going into 2007, what with Kevin Glenn's propensity for having his season interrupted by injury.

That Glenn stayed healthy right through to November kind of put the issue on the back-burner -- until it boiled over and left that mess we saw on Sunday.

Let's be brutally honest, here: even a decent game by the quarterback would have been enough to get past the Saskatchewan Roughriders and win this franchise's first Grey Cup in 17 years.

Most of Ryan Dinwiddie's numbers were just fine.

It's the number of times he hit the self-destruct button that cost the Bombers a championship -- exactly the thing he had to avoid.

Both head coaches said the difference in the game was turnovers.

Four of them, all from Dinwiddie's right hand, led to 13 of Saskatchewan's 23 points: a gift-wrapped interception for a touchdown, a fumble deep in Winnipeg territory that the Riders turned into three and an interception around midfield that gave Saskatchewan a short drive and another three.

And, of course, the last interception, the final nail in the coffin, snuffing the Bombers' last drive.

Would an experienced backup have managed the game better than Dinwiddie did?

We'll never know.

But the Bomber brain trust, along with veterans like Troy Westwood, Milt Stegall and Doug Brown, must be wondering what they've done to upset the football gods.

What are the chances a fumbled exchange on a simple handoff would have such drastic consequences?

Remember, that's how Kevin Glenn got hurt against Toronto in the East Final, diving for a loose ball and having Kevin Eiben land on, and break, his left arm.

If that handoff is clean, Glenn probably survives to play the 95th Grey Cup game. And is there anybody who thinks that wouldn't have reversed the outcome?

The way the Riders offence played, that game was there for the taking.

Talk about a cruel twist of fate.

Had Glenn played and the Bombers won, nobody would be questioning GM Brendan Taman's future. Nobody would care about the way the Bombers utilized Charles Roberts, or that Roberts wasn't at his best.

Nobody would even mention head coach Doug Berry's delay-of-game penalty, when for some reason he challenged a play that had already been challenged, successfully, by Riders boss Kent Austin.

And nobody would be biting their nails to the bone, wondering, hoping, waiting on Milt Stegall's retirement announcement.

Just like 2001, also known as the Meltdown in Montreal, this was a major opportunity lost.

If you're scoring at home, that's four consecutive trips to the big dance -- 1992, '93, '01 and '07 -- with nothing to show for them.

The most disturbing part of all this for Bomber fans is that this team isn't exactly a bunch of up-and-comers.

Several of its top players -- Stegall, Brown, Ike Charlton, Alexandre Gauthier, Dan Goodspeed, Andrew Greene, Anthony Malbrough, Kelly Malveaux, Matt Sheridan, Barrin Simpson, all starters -- are all on the dark side of 30 this year. In fact, more than a third of the players on the 46-man roster for the Grey Cup are 30, or older.

You can't help but wonder if Roberts' best years have gone for naught, too.

So preventing this team from sliding into old age has to be management's biggest challenge, moreso than simply finding, or developing, a backup quarterback.

Taman's mission, if he chooses to accept it, is to keep this team in contention, not let it slide into the basement again.

Because one trip to the Grey Cup every six years isn't good enough.

Not when you keep blowing it.


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