Scouting on a shoestring

Bombers GM Brendan Taman during a game against the Alouettes in Nov. 2007. (Jason Halstead/Winnipeg...

Bombers GM Brendan Taman during a game against the Alouettes in Nov. 2007. (Jason Halstead/Winnipeg Sun/SUN MEDIA)

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:16 PM ET

Never mind his small stature -- Brendan Taman's departure has left the Winnipeg Blue Bombers with some pretty big shoes to fill.

It's also shone the spotlight on what may have been this organization's biggest weakness over the last dozen years.

I'm talking about scouting, an inexact science to be sure, but one the Bombers have been trying to master with a skeleton staff operating on a shoestring budget.

I mean, just take a look at the team's scouting "department" under Taman.

There's Ross Hodgkinson, a guy with a background as the club's trainer.

Did I miss anyone?

Oh, receivers coach Bob Dyce does most of the leg work on the Canadian college scene. The rest of the coaching staff has chipped in, too, checking out the odd U.S. bowl game.

But that's it.

Pretty much one full-time bird dog, in Taman, plus Hodgkinson, who's had plenty of other logistical duties over the years, and who's a relative newcomer to the scouting biz.

Even Taman had never played the game or coached, and he didn't come up through the American ranks, where he could make valuable contacts along the way.

It's amazing the guy came up with as many players as he did.

Not so amazing that he burned out after 10 years.

President and CEO Lyle Bauer, in a rare display of acknowledging weakness, said as much on Tuesday: the Bombers have been getting their butts kicked at recruiting.

"We haven't been able to reach as far as we should have," is how Bauer put it. "Partially because the club is not in a position to do it, from a financial basis, or even from the stability of the club."

Bauer vows that's going to change, a move that was already in the works before Taman threw up the white flag.

New head coach Mike Kelly will be part of the equation.

But hiring the right replacement for Taman, and giving him the necessary support, is critical -- perhaps as critical as the hiring of the right head coach.

"It's hard to be a good head coach when you don't have a good source of players," Toronto Argonauts GM Adam Rita said yesterday.

Aside from Rita, the Argos have two full-time talent scouts, Greg Mohns and Miles Gorrell, and one part-time. Plus, they hire five people when it comes time to scour NFL training camps.

"I don't know how he does it," Rita said of Taman. "Or how anybody can do that for any length of time. Most clubs have several people in their personnel department."

In Calgary, there's the equivalent of three full-time bodies, led by director of player personnel Jim Barker.

"And then our whole coaching staff is really involved in personnel," Barker said. "We're all involved in it. You can't do it by yourself."

In B.C., there's personnel director Roy Shivers and assistant Neil McEvoy, a former junior player, plus whatever the rest of the staff can chip in.

Occasionally the Lions will employ a hired gun to help check out NFL camps.

Even the late Bob Ackles, Lions president got into the act a year ago when an old NFL contact suggested he take a look at running back Stefan Logan.

"The scouting has a central figure, yet it's an organizational process," GM/head coach Wally Buono said. "There's a million spaghetti sauces. There's a million ways to make lasagna. And there's a million ways to do scouting."

The Lions boss says the Bombers have done as well as anyone.

"Look at their roster and tell me they haven't found players," Buono said. "You couldn't say that."

No, you couldn't.

And in the CFL most everybody operates on a shoestring.

The string the Bombers have been using, though, seems more frayed than most.

Kind of like Taman's nerves.

Bauer is promising to strengthen it, a promise that, frankly, is long overdue.


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