WINNIPEG - We heard it over and over again last season: the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were far better than their record indicated.
Halfway through the 2010 campaign, they were supposedly the best 2-7 team, ever.
Then they were the best 4-11 team of all time.
Even in the final analysis, there were those who insisted the Big Blue were the best 4-14 team the CFL had ever seen, based on all their close losses,
Well, now that Cinderella is halfway through the 2011 ball, revelling in her new-found popularity, maybe it’s time to put the slipper on the other foot.
Based on that debacle in Regina on the weekend, the Bombers might have been one of the worst 7-1 teams the CFL has ever seen.
Before you go dusting off your Paul Friesen dart board, hear me out.
I know you can’t base a judgment on one game. But even as the Bombers piled up seven wins in their first eight, there were signs this team wasn’t as complete as its domination in the standings suggested.
As I’ve pointed out before, head coach Paul LaPolice’s offence has been the league’s bottom-feeder, statistically, for much of the season.
Going into the Labour Day weekend, Winnipeg’s “attack” was in a snail’s race with the woeful Toronto Argos for the No. 8 ranking. The Argos finally saw enough, cutting their starting quarterback, Tuesday.
What are the Bombers going to do, cut Fred Reid?
Reid’s average per carry would be fine if his offence had four downs to work with. As it is, the Bombers go two-and-out more than anybody.
If, as Coach LaPo keeps saying, teams are ganging up on Reid, then shouldn’t that leave all kinds of holes for Buck Pierce and Co. to exploit through the air?
Then there’s the kick return game, which, frankly, should be returned. To wherever they got it.
And still with the not-so-special teams, Winnipeg’s paid feet — Justin Palardy and Mike Renaud — could use a pedicure.
Renaud isn’t reminding anyone of Bob Cameron this season, while Palardy (ital) is (ital) reminding a few people of Troy Westwood.
So, to recap, the Bombers have been fattening up on a main course of defence — and a dessert table covered in turnovers.
And here’s where Bomber fans still reeling from that Labour Day stinker should be a tad concerned.
Turnover ratios are a bit like the stock market. Every once in a while, there’s a correction.
Winnipeg’s plus-23 rating going into Labour Day — the next best team was plus-three — looked like a crash waiting to happen.
Sure enough, the Bombers coughed it up four times in Regina, and weren’t nearly good enough to overcome it.
Looking ahead, finishing plus-20 in turnovers would be pretty good. So if the Bombers go even the rest of the way, how many games will they be good enough to win?
The other troubling sign from Sunday was the way this team reacted when it became apparent it wasn’t going to pull this one out.
Safe to say Swaggerville did nothing for its nationwide reputation.
Coach LaPo said the lack of composure is what troubled him the most from Bloody Sunday.
If it keeps up, he’ll have to hire another assistant coach in charge of collecting fines.
I’m not saying this is a bad football team.
It just might not be as good as we thought.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pat this bunch on the back for a first half to remember. This first-place, September air is rather refreshing, after all.
Besides, I’d rather be the worst 7-2 team ever, than the best 2-7 one.