The good news for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and their long-suffering fans is they can’t lose any more games by four points or fewer.
Just 12 hours after putting the finishing touches on their worst season in 12 years, the Bombers on Saturday morning were stuffing their belongings into garbage bags, having their exit interviews and getting ready to head for home.
Meanwhile, rookie head coach Paul LaPolice was dissecting a 4-14 season that was in his last meeting with media.
“We have to get better in a number of areas,” LaPolice said. “Don’t just say we’ll be better next year because we’re going to be older. You’re going to be older, sure, and hopefully that translates into making better decisions and better chemistry — understanding what everyone’s doing.
“We think those things will come.”
The Bombers lost a league-record nine games by four points or fewer, including Friday’s 35-32 setback to Calgary, but LaPolice, as he has maintained all season long, said it doesn’t mean much.
“It shows that we’re a competitive team, and it shows that this team really was focused each week, was prepared each week,” he said. “But it showed that we were focused and prepared to lose by three or four points, and that’s not the name of the game here.”
While GM Joe Mack’s decision to go with a younger lineup proved costly in the win column, so did several of LaPolice’s decisions. The last occurred Friday when, trailing by three, he chose to punt with 1:25 to go in the fourth. The Stampeders ran out the clock.
LaPolice said he will strive this winter to make himself a better coach by analyzing every move he made and asking coaches around the league what they would have done, but he was somewhat defiant in his answer, too.
“Sometimes you make a decision and it’s wrong if it doesn’t work out,” he said. “But if it works out no one says anything.”
LaPolice said it’s too early to know what the look of next year’s squad will be. The Bombers have about 10 free agents, and several others could take a shot at the NFL or retire.
Rookie slotback Terence Jeffers-Harris is a prime example of a young player who should give Bomber fans hope but might not be around long enough to make his mark.
The 22-year-old is going into his option year, but isn’t able to sign south of the border as he hasn’t been through the NFL draft. He could declare for the draft and ask the Bombers, in the spirit of the option-year window, to let him go if an NFL team shows interest.
Jeffers-Harris, whose dad is his manager, recently hired former CFLer Tim Fleiszer as his agent. The Bombers have been trying to get his name on a new contract, but he hopes to work out for some NFL teams and see where it leads.
“I’m going to weigh my options as far as here or there,” he said. “I’ll probably most likely be back. I would like to come back, but business-wise that’s how it is.”
LaPolice was asked what he would say to fans who might be discouraged by the team’s second straight season out of the playoffs.
“I would say that we’re discouraged, too,” he said, adding he hopes the fans believe in the changes that were made in the last nine months. “We’ll be better next year.”
LATE HITS: Bomber slotback Terrence Edwards lost his chance at the CFL receiving yards title on Saturday when Saskatchewan’s Andy Fantuz caught a 10-yard pass late in a win over Edmonton. Fantuz had 77 yards to finish eight yards ahead of Edwards (1,380 to 1,372) … Justin Palardy shattered Alexis Serna’s Bomber record for field goal accuracy this season, connecting on 86.7% of his attempts.