Bomber Thoughts: Week Eighteen, Ottawa at Winnipeg

Bomber Thoughts is a blogging series for which Blue Bomber Talk author John Hodge writes new posts immediately following every Blue Bomber game of the season.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers v Ottawa Redblacks

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers were defeated by the Ottawa RedBlacks on Saturday afternoon by a final score of 27-20. Here are my thoughts:

1. The Blue Bombers had a record of 22-40 (.354) during the tumultuous Joe Mack era. Wade Miller openly disparaged this record during his introductory press conference, quipping, “Let’s call a spade a spade — under Joe Mack, the record speaks for itself.” 26 months later, Miller’s Bombers are worse. The blue and gold are 14-33 (.297) under Miller since week seven of the 2013 season and 12-23 (.342) since Kyle Walters and Mike O’Shea took on permanent roles with the club in 2014. With this in mind, it’s time to stop making excuses for this team. Stop defending them. Stop apologizing for them. Stop giving them credit where none is deserved. They’re terrible. They’re a joke. They’re lucky to have any fan support in the city of Winnipeg — much less the strong support they receive. It’s time Wade Miller was held to his own standard of success: let’s call a spade a spade — under Wade Miller, the record speaks for itself.

2. The Bombers will finish this season out of the playoffs for the fourth season in a row and the sixth time in seven years. Given the high percentage of CFL teams that make the playoffs every year, that is truly pathetic.

3. How’s this for a thought: grade one students across the province of Manitoba (ie. kids born in 2009) have only experienced one Blue Bomber playoff berth in their lives. One.4. Many people have pointed to the Bombers as an example of a team that is flawed because they’ve “built through free agency.” Instead of criticizing the signing of free agents on principle, why don’t we judge each signing based on the play of each individual free agent? Take Ottawa, for example: Ernest Jackson (868 receiving yards), Brad Sinopoli (886), and Greg Ellingson (807) — all free agent signings — are poised to reach 1,000 yards this season. Chris Williams, another free agent signing, already has. Add in the strong play of former Argonaut left tackle SirVincent Rogers and suddenly you have a team that improved greatly over the course of one off-season largely through free agency. On the flip side, Kyle Walter’s three marquee free agent signings — Nick Moore, Stanley Bryant, and Dominic Picard — have all greatly underwhelmed in their time in blue and gold. It’s not “building through free agency” that’s the problem — it’s just a matter of signing the right guys. Ottawa did. Winnipeg didn’t.

5. The most common excuse I hear from fans looking to justify this team’s putrid record is that it “takes more than two years to rebuild a CFL team.” Considering Ottawa was 2-16 a season ago (and, you know, didn’t exist a year prior), I think we can rule this out as a valid excuse.

6. The second most common excuse I hear is the injured status of starting quarterback Drew Willy. First off, Toronto — the team with the league’s toughest schedule this season — has managed a 9-7 record despite being without Ricky Ray for virtually the entire year. Secondly, the Eskimos — who were 4-14 just two years ago, if you’ll recall (see point 5) — were without Mike Reilly for a nine-game stretch from week three to week eleven. Edmonton went 6-3 over that span, despite getting worse quarterbacking out of Matt Nichols (75.6 QBR) than Winnipeg has (81.7 QBR) since he was traded last month.

7. The Bombers are now 7-23 all-time at Investors Group Field during the regular season. They’ve also played three preseason games at IGF. They lost those, too.

8. The Bombers could go 7-2 at home every year for the next three seasons and still have a sub-.500 record at Investors Group Field (28-29). That’s just sad.

9. Tonight’s loss means that the selection of Garrett Waggoner in May’s supplemental draft will end up costing the Bombers the second overall pick in the 2016 CFL draft. That’s a massive price to pay for a player who’s been invisible this season. Waggoner, who looked lost on the few defensive reps he received earlier this season in the Banjo Bowl, has recorded just six special teams tackles despite appearing in all seventeen games this season. For reference, here are the special teams tackle totals from the rookie campaigns of some comparable CFL players: Henoc Muamba, 15; Shea Emry, 21; James Yurichuk, 20; Shomari Williams, 8; Keenan MacDougall, 11; Sam Hurl, 17; Karl McCartney, 19. As you can see, six is a pretty rotten number.

10. Congrats to Greg Peach for recording his first sack since October 13… of last year.

11. It’s getting harder and harder to defend this Blue Bomber defence. Richie Hall’s crew gave up 300 yards passing in the first half for the third straight game (yes, you read that correctly), while William Powell rolled for 118 yards on the ground. Those are ugly defensive numbers, even against the CFL’s top offence.

12. For all the hatred launched at Gary Etcheverry’s undersized defence last year, I saw very few complaints about the Bombers starting two defensive tackles under 270 pounds (Bryant Turner, 266; Leon Mackey, 260) today. Sadly, the RedBlacks were able to take advantage of the Bombers’ light interior guys with several runs up the gut to set up the game’s winning touchdown. Sigh.

13. Speaking of Ottawa’s game-winning touchdown, I called it.


14. I also called it last week.

Tweet215. I can’t help but feel bad for Darvin Adams. He was the best Bomber tonight and showed a tremendous amount of leadership on and off the field throughout the game. He’s only got 715 yards this season, but he’d be a 1,000-yard receiver if he were playing in a more competent offence. I have high hopes for next season.

16. Speaking of season offensive totals, the Bombers won’t have a 1,000-yard receiver, 700-yard rusher, or 2,000-yard passer this season. That’s embarrassing.

17. All in all, this season was an unmitigated disaster for a Blue Bomber team that will see its Grey Cup drought hit twenty-five years in the next two weeks. The futility of the CFL’s once-proud West Division meant that seven wins — just seven wins — were all the club required to earn a playoff spot and a possible home date in the Grey Cup. And the Bombers failed to accomplish that. In fact, they didn’t even come close. The front office, managerial staff, coaches, and players of the Winnipeg Football Club should feel ashamed for the sorry effort they put forth in 2015. It’s an embarrassment to their fans, the city of Winnipeg, and the province of Manitoba. Rant over.

John Hodge, Blue Bomber Talk

Twitter: @BlueBomberTalk


John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.