Winnipeg Blue Bombers: The Teflon Triumverate is making Miller time look an awful lot like Mack time

Wade Miller isn’t going anywhere because…well, just because.

Kyle Walters isn’t going anywhere because…well, because Wade Miller says so.

Mike O’Shea isn’t going anywhere because…well, because Wade Miller told Kyle Walters to say so.

But, hey, when a team sucks as badly today as it did two years ago (to the day) when Miller became the official grand poobah of all things Winnipeg Blue Bombers, somebody has to take the fall. Actually, you can make that somebodies. Plural.

For those of you keeping score at home, what ails the Winnipegs is Joe Mack’s fault. Gary Crowton’s fault. Tim Burke’s fault. Gary Etcheverry’s fault. Pat Tracey’s fault. Marcel Bellefeuille’s fault. There’s possibly some blame to lay at the feet of Buzz and Boomer, as well.

The nasty stuff, meanwhile, fails to stick to the Teflon Triumverate of Miller, Walters and O’Shea, who have taken a 3-15 outfit that failed to qualify for the Canadian Football League playoffs in 2013 and transformed it into a 5-13 outfit that, once again, is on the outside looking in as the Grey Cup tournament commences this weekend.

Nice work if you can get it.

The thing is, the Teflon Triumverate finds itself in the most enviable position of working for mostly non-football-savvy bosses who no longer harbor an appetite for paying people not to work. Thus, there shall be no blood-letting by the board of directors. Not at the moment.

Apparently, the only man willing to wield an axe is O’Shea, the off-with-their-heads head coach.

Once upon a time there was a shop in downtown Winnipeg called the Man with the Axe. It was a discount men’s clothing store. Now it’s where other CFL teams shop for discontinued coaches. I mean, if there is a defining measure (other than wins and losses) of O’Shea’s two-year sideline stewardship, it is his penchant for firing the men he has hired. He’s whacked three co-ordinators in less than a year. Etcheverry, responsible for the defensive dozen, was the first to go last December. Next on the chopping block was special teams CO Tracey, in September. Now offensive CO Bellefeuille is gone, just when I’d finally learned to spell his name without looking it up.

That isn’t a coaching staff O’Shea is operating. It’s a McDonald’s drive-thru.

But, hey, he learned at the knee of the whack master himself, chief executive officer Miller. On his first day on the job as “acting” CEO, Miller whacked much-maligned general manager Joe Mack. On his second day as permanent CEO, he whacked head coach Tim Burke.

Welcome to Whack-a-Mole, Blue Bombers version.

It’s fair, two years after the fact, to assess the workings of Miller as CEO of the once-proud Winnipeg Football Club, and I find myself asking this: Exactly what has he done?

Miller’s first order of business was to hire a general manager and a head coach. He promised an “exhaustive” search for a GM. He would leave no stone on the North American football landscape unturned. As if. All he did was walk down the hall to Walters’ office and say something like, “Yo! Kyle! It’s about that exhaustive search thing I promised our fans. I can’t really be bothered. Too much of a hassle. I know you don’t have any experience, but the job’s yours if you want it. By the way, I’m hungry. Could you whip over to the nearest McDonald’s and get me some burgers?”

Nothing Miller has done on the football side (we won’t talk about the Heritage Classic hockey or stadium fiascos) has worked. Not Walters. Not O’Shea. The Teflon Triumverate is 12-24 in two crusades. Thus, it’s perhaps appropriate to revisit something he said shortly after his anointment as CEO.

“I’m not afraid to prove myself and let my results speak for myself,” he said. “That’s my calling card…so we’re going to bring it.”

All he’s brought is more misery for Bombers Nation.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.

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Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Green is the new Blue, so take a deep breath

Escaping the past isn’t so simple when a group of greenhorns is pushing the buttons and pulling the strings. Keep in mind that GM Kyle Walters is still on training wheels. We don’t know if he’s the right man for the job. Ditto head coach Mike O’Shea. QB Drew Willy has less than a dozen starts on his resume. There’s mounting evidence to suggest tailback Nic Grigsby might have made the wrong decision when he chose football over baseball.

Let me begin by saying I didn’t expect the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to qualify for the playoffs. I still don’t. I believed it to be too daunting a task. I still do.

Let’s remember—how could we ever forget?—that the local football heroes had waged an historically inept campaign just a year ago, failing 15 times in 18 assignments, and they entered the 2014 fray with the most obvious facelift since Joan Rivers surfaced with a mug as plastic as a Canadian $5 bill.

The Bombers didn’t undergo a minor procedure by Drs. Nip and Tuck, you understand. They went for the deluxe package. They showed up for business this Canadian Football League crusade with a rookie CEO. A rookie general manager. A rookie head coach. A rookie starting quarterback. A rookie tailback. A rookie running backs coach. A rookie…oh, let’s just say the Bombers have more green people than a 1960s sci-fi novel.

Green became the new Blue.

It isn’t easy being green. Especially when you’re trying to run with the big dogs in the West Division. And now the greening of the Blue has come to roost. The Bombers have lost their past two skirmishes and the pie-in-the-sky of a 5-1 start is falling. From facelift to face plant.

A lot of us saw this coming. I’m not saying the Bombers’ early-season success was fraudulent. A win is a win is a win and worth two points every time. Each was earned. And not to be devalued.

The thing is, escaping the past isn’t so simple when a group of greenhorns is pushing the buttons and pulling the strings. Keep in mind that GM Kyle Walters is still on training wheels. We don’t know if he’s the right man for the job. Ditto head coach Mike O’Shea. QB Drew Willy has less than a dozen starts on his resume. There’s mounting evidence to suggest tailback Nic Grigsby might have made the wrong decision when he chose football over baseball.

Then there’s Buck Pierce, running backs coach. I’m still not convinced his appointment was a wise hire. Seems to me it was more of a reward for being beat up while playing quarterback behind a train wreck of an offensive line. But, hey, I almost forgot that we don’t criticize Pierce. Not in River City. Buck has a lifetime Get Our of Jail Free card. So it isn’t his fault that the Bombers’ ground game has as much traction as Gord Steeves’s mayoral campaign.

You want to point accusatory fingers? Aim them at the O-linemen. The large lads are to blame. For everything. Well aren’t they? I mean, they can’t run block, they can’t pass block. And when, pray tell, are they going to clear a path so it’s safe for women and children to use the skywalks?

Meanwhile, it’s about the defensive dozen. It’s said that D guru Gary Etcheverry has 20 different schemes to baffle and befuddle enemy forces. Unfortunately, none of the 20 is designed to stop the run. That’s because the Bombers have a group of linebackers who weigh less than a T-bone steak on Chris Walby’s dinner plate. They look like refugees from Smurf Village.

Combine it all and you have considerable gnashing of the teeth in Bombers Nation.

Well, allow me to provide a pinch of perspective before the lads re-enter the fracas when the Montreal Alouettes pay a visit to Green Acres Field in Fort Garry on Aug. 22:

  • You wanted a new CEO. You got one.
  • You wanted a new general manager. You got one.
  • You wanted a new head coach. You got one.
  • You wanted a new starting quarterback. You got one.

In other words, you got exactly what you wanted. You just didn’t necessarily get who you wanted.

In the end, I’m guessing it’ll prove to be too much green and not enough grey and the rookies won’t turn last season’s sow’s ear into this season’s silk purse. But I’m willing to give the greenies more than eight games to find their footing. To sort things out.

They had a terrific start. They’ve stumbled. Hey, stuff happens.

But it’s not the kind of stuff that went down last year. And the year before. That was Cirque du Bombers. It was Barnum, Bailey and the Big Blue. They spent two seasons trying to see how many clowns they could stuff in a Volkswagen.

I’d say the clown act is over. I mean, the Bombers now actually have a head coach who wanted the job. Apparently he still does want the job. What a concept.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old, comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she doesn’t know when to quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.