LaPolice had more lows than highs

Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice. (QMI AGENCY)

Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice. (QMI AGENCY)

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:42 PM ET

Paul LaPolice’s reign as the 28th head coach in Bomber history had its highs and its lows, but there were more of the latter. GM Joe Mack cited LaPolice’s inability to turn the offence around and the team’s lack of discipline as the two key factors in his dismissal. We take a look back at the good and not-so-good moments of LaPolice’s two-and-a-half-year stint as Bombers boss.

Feb. 5, 2010

Mack names LaPolice the team’s new head coach over former Bombers defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall. “I can say this: Everything we do from our coaching staff to our players, we will be professionals,” LaPolice said. “We will be detailed. We will be organized. We’ll give them a plan to win each week. We want to make sure we put a professional face on this organization.”

Feb. 26, 2010

The Bombers trade Gavin Walls to Montreal and release Lenny Walls, kickstarting Mack’s youth movement that continues to this day and likely played a role in Winnipeg’s 16-28 record under LaPolice’s watch.

April 12, 2010

Winnipeg signs Buck Pierce, giving the Blue and Gold a proven No. 1 quarterback.

July 2, 2010

LaPolice wins his first game as head coach, and the Bombers throw 49 points on the board in a victory over Hamilton. It went all downhill from there, though, as that would be Winnipeg’s biggest offensive output during LaPolice’s tenure.

Aug. 7, 2010

Winnipeg gets to Hamilton’s three-yard line with time ticking down and the team trailing by seven. There is mass confusion, however, because LaPolice changed the play that morning but called in the wrong formation during the game. That led to Steven Jyles getting sacked. “I’m mad at my last call,” LaPolice said. “I could’ve called a better play for the players, given them a better situation. I told the players it’s my fault.”

Sept. 5, 2010

Pierce dislocates his elbow during the Labour Day Classic and is done for the year.

Sept. 19, 2010

The Bombers trail the Argos by four points with two minutes to go when LaPolice decides to hand off to Andre Sadeghian on third-and-two deep in Toronto territory. He’s stuffed, and the Bombers fall to 3-7. “If I had it back, maybe I’d call a different (play),” LaPolice said.

Feb. 5, 2010

Jyles is benched in favour of Alex Brink, who goes 4-for-18 before getting the hook in the third quarter. The boos rain down on LaPolice for making the quarterback switch. All is forgiven, however, as Jyles comes into the game and leads the Bombers to a stunning, 47-35 comeback win over B.C. in overtime. “Everybody bailed us out,” LaPolice said.

Nov. 5, 2010

The Bombers finish the season with a 35-32 loss to Calgary, their ninth setback by four points or fewer, and end up with a 4-14 record. “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.” He was right about that.

July 1, 2011

The season starts with a bang, as the Bombers go into Hamilton on opening day and beat the Ticats 24-16. It was Winnipeg’s first road win since 2009.

July 26, 2011

Defensive line and assistant head coach Richard Harris dies of a heart attack in his office. LaPolice shows tremendous poise and leadership for his team in the following days, and the Bombers came from behind to beat the B.C. Lions two days later. “I was happy we were on defence to win the game,” LaPolice said. “We had help.”

Aug. 26, 2011

The Bombers, thanks to a healthy Pierce and consistent play on both offence and defence, edge the Ticats 30-27 for their fifth win in a row (the team’s longest in eight seasons) and run their record to an impressive 7-1. “I believe we’re playing better,” LaPolice said “We’re making better decisions on the field, and we’re making more plays.”

Sept. 30, 2011

The wheels start to slide off as the Bombers lose their fourth game in five outings, 32-26 to the Montreal Alouettes, when Brink twice fails to plunge into the end zone from one yard out on the final two plays of the game.

Oct. 7, 2011

Winnipeg whips Hamilton 33-17 to clinch a playoff spot for the first time since 2008. “Just making the playoffs is not what’s going to satisfy this place, this town, this community,” LaPolice said. “We’re well aware of the fact that we want to continue to win games to put ourselves in position to compete for a Grey Cup. That’s the ultimate goal, to win championships.”

Nov. 5, 2011

The Bombers lose 30-24 to the Stampeders in their final regular-season game to cap a 10-8 campaign, but they finish first in the East Division when the B.C. Lions beat the Montreal Alouettes later in the day. “It’s been a lot of work for where we came from last year, and we felt it was something we should be able to do,” LaPolice said. “Over the course of the season we found a way to do it.”

Nov. 20, 2011

The Blue and Gold trounce the Tiger-Cats 19-3 in the East Final at Canad Inns Stadium, clinching the organization’s first Grey Cup berth since 2007. They become just the second team in 30 years to go from the basement of their division to the title game the following year.

Nov. 27, 2011

The team’s lack of offensive punch plays a significant role in Winnipeg’s 34-23 loss to the B.C. Lions in the Grey Cup. The Bombers had just seven first downs through three quarters against the Leos. “This is something they’ve done to a lot of teams in the last couple weeks,” LaPolice said.

Nov. 29, 2011

LaPolice fires Jamie Barresi as the team’s offensive co-ordinator, even though Barresi doesn’t call the plays. “I don’t think play calling was our biggest concern,” said LaPolice, who called the plays.

Feb. 9, 2012

LaPolice is named one of three finalists for the CFL coach of the year award. “Any award as coach of the year is more of a team award than anything,” LaPolice said. “I’m very honoured to represent our support staff, the players and the coaches that I’ve worked with because, without them, I’m not standing here with that nomination.” He doesn’t win it, though.

March 20, 2012

Mack awards LaPolice with a new three-year contract that will take him to the end of the 2014 season. “The fact that we were 4-14 and we were taking a fair amount of understandable flak, if you will, and we were able to overcome that and get into first place and go to the Grey Cup says a lot,” Mack said. “And Paul deserves a great deal of that credit.”

July 18, 2012

The Bombers fall to 0-4 — all on the road thanks to management’s mistake regarding the new stadium — with a 25-22 loss to the Argos. Pierce is out with torn ligaments and a torn muscle in his foot, and backup Brink is struggling.

Aug. 3, 2012

Winnipeg falls to 1-5 with a 36-26 home loss to the Montreal Alouettes. Their only win came a week earlier gainst Edmonton when rookie defensive tackle Jake Thomas knocked the ball out of Jyles’ hand in the final minute. LaPolice begins to seriously worry about his job, even though Mack says it is no time to make drastic moves. “I don’t think that’s proper at this point in time,” Mack said.

Aug. 16, 2012

Things are looking up as Joey Elliott throws for 406 yards in Winnipeg’s 32-25 win over the Tiger-Cats. “It allows us to keep pace with everybody else in the league,” LaPolice said. “More than anything, it’s a lift for our guys.”

Aug. 25, 2012

Mack fires LaPolice 12 hours after a gutsy, 20-17 loss to the defending champion Lions, citing the poor offence and the team’s lack of discipline as the main factors for his dismissal. “I feel that we weren’t making the necessary strides and in fact were possibly going backwards, particularly after having gone to a Grey Cup,” Mack said. “I was a little bit surprised and disappointed that we seemed to have regressed this year, and at times I didn’t feel we were playing up to our full potential.”

 


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