Why the Blue Bombers are sticking with embattled kicker Ali Mourtada

Photo: Nik Kowalski/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ head coach Mike O’Shea gave embattled placekicker Ali Mourtada a vote on confidence after practice on Tuesday.

“The misses he’s had are just outside the uprights,” he told the media. “They aren’t hooks and slices. The ball is not different every time. The five misses — they all look exactly the same. They don’t look like five different balls being kicked. I do think the correction is slight — we just have to land on the right correction.”

The rookie has struggled terribly this season, connecting on just four-of-ten field goal attempts. Five of his six misses have come from distances of 40 yards or more, though he also missed a 28-yard attempt in Week 7. He has yet to make a field goal more than 30 yards in length through his three games in the CFL.

“It’s very simple to just judge it as ‘made it or didn’t make it.’ If you look beyond that and look at all the aspects around kicking, he’s a good kicker,” said O’Shea.

“My job is to coach and make sure I’m giving him everything I can and try to give him exactly what he needs for him to find that spot again because he’s had it before. It’s my job to help make him more successful. That’s what I’ll focus on.”

Mourtada does not have a position coach but works with O’Shea and special teams coordinator Paul Boudreau in practice. He also sends film to kicking coaches who provide him with feedback on how he can improve his game.

O’Shea still believes in the rookie kicker for a number of reasons including his desire to improve.

“The work ethic, the commitment to be better. There’s lots of other intangibles that are very impressive. The thing I’ve remarked about him from the time we worked him out is he hits the same ball every time in terms of how he strikes it, how clean the ball flies. The ball flight is the same all the time,” said O’Shea.

“There’s none of those inconsistencies you see sometimes from other kickers. He kicks the same ball pretty well dead-straight every time. Now, he needs to work on his angles and the hashes and that’s what he’s focused on — reaffirming the view from the different angles and the different hashes.”

Mourtada acknowledged that his performance in Friday’s win over Edmonton was disappointing. He is thankful that the team is still working with him and given him another opportunity to help the club win games.

“It’s grace. It’s definitely not something that happens often, if at all. That’s just something I am thankful for and I want to take advantage of that opportunity that’s not given to everybody. Now I gotta do what I gotta do to make sure that I do my part for the team and show that it’s the right choice to make.”

The 31-year-old refused to make excuses for his misses, though he echoed O’Shea’s sentiments regarding an angle issue. He feels he’s one small adjustment away from become an accurate kicker at the professional level.

Mourtada indicated that he did not pay attention to the crowd’s discontent during Friday’s game because he was focused solely on the game. He understands why fans were upset and plans to use it as an opportunity to grow.

“I understand it being frustrating for the Bomber fans as well. They are passionate fans and that’s what makes this place so great is that fan base,” said Mourtada. “That’s not an experience a lot of people can have in life is a crowd full of people booing them. That’s something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life, but I’ll grow from that.”

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.