|The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have hired Gary Crowton to be their new offensive co-ordinator. (Derick E. Hingle/US PRESSWIRE)
WINNIPEG - Paul LaPolice is ready to loosen his grip on the play-calling duties.
The Bombers head coach announced Monday morning that Gary Crowton is the team’s new offensive co-ordinator, and all signs point to Crowton being the man in charge of the offence when the season begins.
“How I’ve talked to Gary about it is, I said if you’re ready to call the plays you can call the plays,” LaPolice said. “If you think you’re comfortable and ready — which I am sure he will be — you’ll call the plays. He’s done it for the Chicago Bears, he’s done it at (Louisiana) Tech. He’s a spread pass game guy like I am.”
Play calling was arguably the fans’ biggest concern heading into 2012 — as in, they didn’t want LaPolice doing it anymore after Winnipeg’s offence struggled mightily in 2011 but still made it to the Grey Cup. LaPolice said GM Joe Mack told him he could continue to call the plays, but the head coach is ready to hand those responsibilities over.
“Paul’s been a very good offensive co-ordinator in the past there and has done a great job, and I’ve always called the plays everywhere I’ve been,” Crowton said Monday afternoon from Maryland. “What will happen is once we get to that point we’ll just work it out. Right now I’m preparing as if I’m going to call them, but we’ll see how it goes when the time comes.”
Crowton spent the last 20 years with some big-name NCAA programs and the NFL’s Chicago Bears, experiencing highs and lows like any coach. His offences at BYU in 2001 and LSU in 2007, when he won a national title with the Tigers, were some of the best in the nation. His offences at Maryland last fall and at LSU in 2010 did not enjoy the same kind of success. His reputation is starting off with a bang and going downhill after that.
The 54-year-old, who is originally from Orem, Utah, is comfortable with wide-open offences like those utilized in the CFL, so Bomber fans should be hopeful for an improved attack to go along with the Blue and Gold’s swaggering defence.
“He’s a former quarterback,” said LaPolice, who has known Crowton for 20 years. “He loves to throw the football. He loves the spread pass game. The zone read that most teams in this league run is kind of what he did at Oregon … I just feel like I’ve got a guy we’ll be excited to have.
“He’s one of the best offensive co-ordinators in the nation, and his resume says that.”
Crowton was making $500,000 last fall in his first year as Maryland’s offensive co-ordinator, but the Terrapins were 2-10 and he parted ways with the team after the season even though the defence was blamed for the record. Crowton said he can’t talk about Maryland because he’s still under contract there, and he won’t officially join the Bombers until March 14.
“(The offence) will have the flair, or the personality, that I will bring to it through the passing game along with what Paul LaPolice has done,” Crowton said. “As we sit down and go over everything, we’ll put our best stuff together and we’ll come up with something that we feel like we can score points, move the football and win football games.”
And for those who are worried a coach with Crowton’s resume might just be playing out his career in the CFL, need not be worried.
“I’m not looking at it in that manner at all,” he said. “I feel like I’m still a pretty young coach, and I’m looking to go up there and do everything I can to win a Grey Cup.”