Berry has lost team

TROY WESTWOOD

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

There comes a point in time when the truth must be spoken and 1-6 is that time.

Why is a team that fought its way to the championship game in 2007 struggling so mightily in 2008? The vast majority of the veterans from that team are still in the locker-room.

The offence seemed poised to have a huge unstoppable year. The defence looked to be on the verge of being damn near impenetrable.

Fingers are pointing in all directions, players, and assistant coaches. In all directions but one -- the head coach.

Some will claim sour grapes to what I write. I ask this: Please read what I have to say, decide if it is the truth, and then come to your own conclusions.

NUMEROUS INSTANCES

I will start by saying this: Many a player has, and many a team has, played for a coach they do not like. It's not important that a player, or team, likes the head coach.

What is imperative, absolutely crucial, is that the players respect the head coach.

I will say it here and now -- most players on your Winnipeg Blue Bombers do not respect the head coach.

There have been numerous instances since he began his tenure as head coach that Berry has said or done something to damage his standing in the hearts and minds of his players, and his assistant coaches.

Here are two examples of things he has done, two of the many that have lost him respect in the locker-room.

- Imagine how the players feel after the team has been picked upon the completion of training camp. Absolute optimism abounds.

Each individual player has survived camp, and even if a player is a 10-year vet, every man in that room is deeply happy and thankful to be in a position to live his dream and play professional football.

The first 2008 Winnipeg Blue Bomber team meeting is called. One heartbeat. You, your teammates, and the coaches against the world. The head coach begins his first speech to the team that he has hand picked to bring the Grey Cup home to Manitoba.

All is going well in his speech, then the head coach makes a statement very close to the following, "many of you are here not because you were better than who you were competing against in camp, but because you were cheaper."

Can you imagine the thoughts going through the mind of every single Winnipeg Blue Bomber in that room? Atta boy Doug, way to bring the boys together. Pretty sure Vince Lombardi had that one tucked away somewhere and was just waiting for the perfect time to dish it out to one of his squads.

- First regular season home game against Toronto. Tough, tight defensive game, Fred Reid on two occasions runs the ball out of the end zone, and gets tackled deep in Bomber territory. The Bombers struggle with the field position battle for the whole game.

After the game, the head coach stated that he hoped the returner would be more "judicious" in his decision-making when running the ball out of the end zone.

Berry was being misleading when he made that statement, casting all responsibility of the play onto the shoulders of the returner, Fred Reid.

In my 17 years of professional football, not once was it left up to the returner if he was going to run it out of the end zone or not.

Not once. Never.

The play is sent in from the special teams coach, who has been instructed by the head coach. Berry has a signal that is sent in if the returner is to give up a point, and a different signal to bring the ball out of the end zone.

The signal was sent in. Fred Reid was told to bring the ball out of the end zone. Does Berry take the blame for calling that play, as any decent man would? No, he doesn't. He instead hangs his player out to dry, publicly.

All the players and assistant coaches know the truth. But you can't say anything in situations like that, not if you want a job.

A good leader, a good man, would have stepped in front and taken that bullet for his team, even if it was the returner's mistake.

Many instances similar to the two above have occurred during Berry's tenure.

At first players can ignore such things. As time passes and these things continue to occur, they begin to eat away at all aspects of the team. At some point in time, respect for the man who is supposed to be your leader will no longer exist.


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