Bombers' incoming OC has impressive resume

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:30 AM ET

WINNIPEG - It was a puzzling way to start a conference call to talk about a new job.

Incoming Blue Bombers offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton wanted to make one thing very clear before talking about his first foray into Canadian football.

It had nothing to do with his offensive philosophy or the quarterbacks he’ll be working with, or even about whether or not he’ll take over the play-calling duties from head coach Paul LaPolice.

“The first thing I gotta say is I’m not going to accept any employment there until March 14,” Crowton, on the line from Maryland, began. “Just so everybody knows. March 14 is the day I’ve accepted employment there.”

With that, Crowton went on to explain how quarterback Doug Flutie first sparked his interest in the CFL, and how he’s always called plays and is preparing to do it here, too, if he and LaPolice figure he’s ready.

It didn’t take long, though, before he made another reference to his start date.

“The important date that this will happen will be March 14,” he said.

Near the end of the conference call, asked about going from a $500,000 annual salary at the University of Maryland to relatively pauperish CFL wages, Crowton went for the hat trick.

“That’s a tough question to respond to,” he said. “I’m very happy with the situation that coach LaPolice and I talked about. The employment that I’m talking about, the employment date is March 14.”

OK, coach, we got it.

What was the big deal with March 14, anyway?

It turns out Crowton learned a hard lesson at Maryland, where last month he was cut loose one lousy season into a three-year contract worth a reported $1.5 million.

The Washington Post reports Crowton inexplicably never signed his Maryland contract.

So when his offence was a wreck, Year 1 — ranked 10th in the conference in scoring, 111th, nationally, in passing efficiency — and when Crowton went public with his interest in becoming the head coach at Colorado State, Maryland could show him the door without any serious financial repercussions.

Crowton was shuffled into a non-football role in the athletic department in mid-December, with the deal paying him $125,000, expiring March 13 — or on the date he started a new job.

And he agreed to waive all claims arising from his contract as the team’s offensive co-ordinator.

“I really can’t talk about Maryland,” Crowton said, Monday.

That’s fine. The only thing Bomber fans care about is if he can coax some drives out of the Winnipeg offence. You know, shed the two-and-out label that hung on Coach LaPo’s attack last season.

I don’t know if Crowton is one of the high-pedigree candidates GM Joe Mack said a while back were in the mix, but he does have a pretty impressive resume.

If big-time U.S. college experience impresses you, he’s got it: head coaching stints at Louisiana Tech and Brigham Young, the OC job at Oregon and Louisiana State, where he won a national championship with the Tigers, four years ago — even a two-year term running the offence of the NFL’s Chicago Bears.

The results have been mixed.

So what’s he doing coming up north, and down to the salary level of the CFL?

A love for the spread offence and the passing game is one thing. And maybe he needed a change.

It wouldn’t be the first time the wide-open, three-down game has caught the imagination of an offensive specialist from down south.

As for his head coaching aspirations, they’re on hold.

“That may be something I want down the road,” Crowton said. “But right now my thought process is to get in there, do a great job and to be able to win football games and take this opportunity as far as I can take it.”

But not until March 14.

And this time, we’re betting he’s signed the contract.


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