Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Bye week with the braintrust

We now take you inside the Winnipeg Blue Bombers bunker at Football Follies Field in Fort Garry, where the team braintrust—CEO Wade Miller, general manager Kyle Walters and head coach Mike O’Shea—are using a bye week to review their first eight games and plot strategy for the back half of the Canadian Football League crusade…

O’SHEA: “I don’t know about you, Kyle, but I feel like we’ve dodged a bullet.”

WALTERS: “We? We didn’t dodge anything. It was your ass on the line, not mine. Wade and I already had you blindfolded, lit you a cigarette and had you standing against a wall. One more loss and…let’s just say it’s a good thing for you that Wade ordered me to order you to start Matt Nichols at quarterback and put Drew Willy in the dumpster when we were 1-4. Ain’t that right, Wade? ”

The Blue Bombers' three wise men: Mike O'Shea, Kyle Walters, Wade Miller.
The Blue Bombers’ three wise men: Mike O’Shea, Kyle Walters, Wade Miller.

O’SHEA: “Ya, I guess we were wrong about Willy.”

WALTERS: “We? We weren’t wrong about anything, Mike. Wade and I wanted Nichols to start at QB right from the get-go. Right outta training camp. But oooooh no. You had to have it your way. I swear, you’re as mule-headed as Wade is round. If we’d let you have it your way, Willy’d still be the starting quarterback and we’d be 1-7 instead of 4-4. Actually, you’d be outta Dodge and the old sheriff would be the new sheriff in town. Ain’t that right, Wade?”

O’SHEA: “You telling me that Paul LaPolice is here as offensive coordinator just so you have someone to step in if I screw up?”

WALTERS: “Do the math, Mike.”

O’SHEA: “Ya, let’s do some math. Now that we’ve got this thing turned around and won our last three games, maybe it’s time we talked numbers. Like numbers on a new contract. I’m what those annoying media people call—quote-unquote—a lame-duck coach, ’cause I’m on the last year of my contract. You’re good to go until the end of 2017, so what about me?”

WALTERS: “What you just said is the very reason we can’t give you a contract extension—I’m good to go only until the end of next year. That’s it. There’s no guarantee that Wade’s gonna keep me around after 2017. Maybe he’s already got someone in mind to replace me. Someone like Eric Tillman. So, again, do the math, Mike. Until I get an extension, you don’t get one. Besides, we’re not convinced you’ve turned this thing around. How do we know you won’t go back to Willy at the first sign of trouble? When Wade ordered me to order you to name Nichols the starting quarterback, you told the media that we hadn’t seen the last of Drew Willy. That he’d be back.”

O’SHEA: “The day I start Willy at quarterback again is the day I stop wearing my creepy short pants on the sideline. I’ve seen enough film to know that Matt Nichols is my main man.”

WALTERS: “Trust us, Mike, there’s only one way you’ll ever, ever, ever start Drew Willy at QB again—if Matt is in the hospital and there’s a priest beside his bed. It ain’t gonna happen. Meanwhile, it’s about those shorts of yours. What’s up with that?”

O’SHEA: “Did you bring me here to win football games or to get on the cover of GQ magazine?”

WALTERS: “Well, until recently, you and your short pants weren’t doing either one of those things. You’re 16-28!”

O’SHEA: “Ya, and you’re 18-38 in long pants! So what’s your point?”

Matt Nichols
Matt Nichols

WALTERS: “I guess my point should be that neither of us belongs on the cover of GQ and both of us are lucky that we can still afford to buy a new pair of pants, short or long. Most teams would have fired both of our sorry asses by now. I mean, I’m 18-38. You’re 16-28. What part of pathetic does the board of directors not understand?”

O’SHEA: “I think maybe Wade has ’em hoodwinked. He scares ’em. Or maybe he’s got incriminating pictures, or something. That’s gotta be it.”

WALTERS: “It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you don’t screw this thing up by doing something stupid the rest of the way, like sending Clarence Denmark home to sit on a couch in Florida again.”

O’SHEA: “I didn’t get rid of Clarence in the first place. You released him in the off-season.”

WALTERS: “Ya, because after I spent all that money on Weston Dressler and Ryan Smith, I couldn’t afford to pay Clarence anymore. But now that he’s back and making mice nuts for a wage, he’s a keeper.”

O’SHEA: “And what do I do with Dressler and Smith once they’re healthy? I can’t have my highest-paid receivers standing on the sidelines.”

WALTERS: “Why not? You’ve got a $400,000 quarterback holding a clipboard on the sidelines. You’re winning without him. And you’re winning without Dressler and Smith and all the other high-priced starters who’ve been injured. What does that tell you?”

O’SHEA: “It tells me that you have spent a lot of money foolishly. Ain’t that right, Wade?”

Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for 46 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 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 in 2015.

About the Bombers’ binge…Huf huffing and puffing…a menage-a-goaltender…spoiled brats…and media groupies obsessed with a Raptors groupie

I cannot survive in a 140-character world, so here are more tweets that grew up to be too big for Twitter…

Many people were surprised to learn that Winnipeg has been ranked among the top seven most intelligent communities in the world. We’re not talking about one of the brightest burgs just in Manitoba, Canada or North America, understand. This is the whole world. The. Entire. Planet.

Ya, well, if there are so many Einsteins in Pegtown, why can’t one of them show the Winnipeg Blue Bombers how to win the Grey Cup?

John Hufnagel
John Hufnagel

I’m not sure what caused more raised eyebrows last week, the Bombers signing seven players scant seconds after the opening bell rang for the Canadian Football League’s annual livestock auction of untethered talent, or John Hufnagel’s reaction to the Big Blue’s free-agent binge. “I’d say that’s a little surprising,” the Calgary Stampeders grand poobah huffed and puffed. “How many years are they going to do it? You answer me that. They didn’t sign any of their guys, and they sign other people’s guys. I prefer to sign my own guys. That’s just me.” One day later, “just me” signed two “other people’s guys,” Bakari Grant and Taylor Reed of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, then added a third, James Green, late of the Ottawa RedBlacks. Pot, meet kettle.

You’ll have to excuse me if I hesitate to join the hallelujah chorus in touting the Bombers as new, improved and bound for glory. No doubt general manager Kyle Walters has added some top-end talent in running back Andrew Harris, size-smurf receivers Weston Dressler and Ryan Smith, and place-kicker Justin Medlock, but it’s still about the offensive line, the starting quarterback, Drew Willy, and, perhaps most important, the sideline maestro and film fanatic, head coach Mike O’Shea. Does Walters’ handiwork make O’Shea any smarter today than he was at the close of business in 2015? I think the GM said it best when asked how much better a product he’ll field in the ’16 CFL crusade: “Well, we’ll see.” So color me curious but not convinced.

Connor Hellebuyck
Connor Hellebuyck

Speaking of curious, I viewed the three’s-a-crowd demotion of Connor Hellebuyck to the farm as a bit of a head-scratcher. Not surprising, though, because the Winnipeg Jets have long been goaltender blind. Hellebuyck did enough good things during his time in the blue paint to convince me that he’s a National Hockey League-calibre goaltender and might be the Jets’ starter-in-waiting, so Michael Hutchinson should have been the fall guy and dispatched to the American Hockey League Manitoba Moose once Ondrej Pavelec returned from sick bay. Yes, I realize Hutchinson would have been exposed to the waiver wire were he the odd man out in the Jets’ menage-a-goaltender, but so what. I doubt another outfit would have claimed him. If so, no loss. I just cannot see where he fits into the club’s future.

There can be just one reason for the Winnipeg Free Press to have recruited Scott Campbell to pen a weekly column on the Winnipeg Jets: To provide a (former) player’s insight. His latest offering? Zero insight. I mean, telling us that Michael Hutchinson is having “a disappointing season” is lame. And implying that Andrew Copp has struggled as an NHL rookie because he’s been flanked by “a variety of nondescript players” is a copout (pun intended). From everything I’ve seen, Copp himself is a nondescript player. Gotta do better than that, Scott.

So let me see if I’ve got this straight: Cam Newton, the losing quarterback in the National Football League championship joust, walks out during a post-game chin-wag with news scavengers and he’s Darth QB. The Carolina Panthers’ main man is roasted and toasted as a sore loser, a spoiled brat and cited as an example of everything that is wrong with today’s pro jocks. Yet, two days later, Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville waves his arms in frustration and stomps out of a gab-session with the media and there isn’t a peep of protest. What am I missing here? Why is it unacceptable for an NFL quarterback to behave like a brat, but it’s permissble for an NHL coach?

Raptors groupie Drake
Raptors groupie Drake

I’m sorry, but I just don’t get this groupie-like love affair between scribes in the Republic of Tranna and the rapper Drake. I mean, I’ve read more headlines about Drake in the past few days than Stephen Curry, who, give or take a Lebron James, is the best basketball player on the planet. The National Basketball Association all-star weekend in Toronto has become a testimonial to Drake. There are feature pieces on him in both the Globe and Mail and National Post sports sections. And the headlines: Drake receives coaching tips from Michael Jordan; Drake starstruck by Michael Jordan; How Drake became the king of Toronto; Celebrate Valentine’s Day the Drake way; Drake gets key to the city; Drake to introduce all-stars.There were two pics of Drake on the front page of Toronto Sun website and three more on the sports front. And for what? Because he’s a Toronto Raptors groupie. And the media are groupies of the groupie.

Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for 45 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 in 2015.