55 Yard Line

Bombers challenge Einstein’s definition of insanity with their hire of Casey Creehan

Casey Creehan will be taking his propensity for yelling to Winnipeg.There's some debate over if Albert Einstein's supposed definition of insanity ("doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results") actually comes from him, but whoever authored it would probably be signing the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' organization up for some compulsory mental evaluations right about now. The Bombers have followed through on discussions from earlier this month, hiring Casey Creehan as their new defensive coordinator Thursday. Creehan's only coming off a disaster of a season in Hamilton, so it's curious that he not only wasn't fired, but managed to earn the same position on a team that was (marginally) better defensively last year. Now, of course, this isn't doing exactly the same thing, as Creehan will be working under a defensively-minded coach (Tim Burke, the Bombers' previous DC before his mid-year promotion) and will be working with different personnel. Considering how poorly Creehan faired with a Hamilton defence that had plenty of talent and how many personnel issues the Bombers have (despite Creehan's denial of these!), though, it's tough to expect this move to produce better results. It's much easier to expect another apocalyptic cataclysm .

What's there against Creehan? Let's look at the numbers. The CFL helpfully tracks 25 different team defensive statistics on a week-to-week basis, and it's shocking just how bad they make Hamilton look. In the 2012 regular season, the Tiger-Cats finished dead last in 11 of those 25 categories (actually substantial improvement over earlier in the year, as they were last in 21 of 25 at one point!), including such crucial ones as points allowed per game (32.0), touchdowns allowed (57), first downs allowed (429), passing yards allowed per game (305.7) and rushing touchdowns allowed (29, 13 more than any other team), plus they finished second-last in yards against per game (409.2). To provide some context, the Hamilton offence was the league's best in passing yards per game (298.2) and points per game (29.9) in 2012, but its per-game totals against average competition were still worse than what an average offence managed against the Tiger-Cats' defence.

To provide further context, consider the pre-Creehan era of 2011, where Hamilton's defence still had issues, but finished last in only two of those 25 categories. In 2011, Hamilton allowed 5.4 less points per game (26.6), 17 less touchdowns (42), 34 less first downs (395), 29.3 less passing yards per game (276.4) and 12 less rushing touchdowns (17)—and that was in a year where the Tiger-Cats allowed the second-highest yards against per game (375.3, a staggering 33.9 less than in 2012) and the third-highest points against per game! Hamilton's defence struggled in 2011 despite a plethora of talent, but although much of that talent came back for 2012 (with the notable exception of defensive end Justin Hickman, who left for the NFL, the Ticats' defence brought back most of its top players and fielded arguably the best linebacking corps in the league), the numbers plummeted even further off a cliff. It's hard not to put that on the coordinator. Hey, at least he brought some energy!

Could Creehan's Winnipeg tenure not wind up being a debacle? Sure. He's worked with Burke before, including as linebackers coach during the Bombers' 2011 run to the Grey Cup game, and it will undoubtedly help him to have oversight from a renowned defensive mind (Hamilton coach George Cortez's background's from the offensive side of the ball). There's also the chance that perhaps his 2011 struggles were just growing pains, and he'll go on to become a solid coordinator. However, the numbers don't suggest that Creehan did anything as a defensive coordinator in 2012 that would be deserving of keeping the DC job in Hamilton, much less landing another one; in fact, going from Corey Chamblin (who's now the head coach in Saskatchewan) to Creehan appears to be the primary change between the bad-but-not-terrible Tiger-Cats' defence of 2011 and the appalling trainwreck they fielded in 2012.

Creehan's tenure as a defensive coordinator so far has been apocalyptically bad, so much so that you'd expect Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden to be amongst those tearing up his defence, not, say, the three Argonauts' backup quarterbacks and one receiver who combined to hang 319 passing yards on the Ticats in their must-win finale (where Hamilton gave up a season-high 43 points). It's much more impressive when you're losing to The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, not The Four Horsemen of Mediocre Passing Statistics. Now, after watching that disaster, the Bombers are paving the way for the sequel. Perhaps things won't work out the same way and this will actually pay off,  but considering how many promising candidates there are out there who haven't yet failed at this level, hiring Creehan instead to run your defence sure looks like a decent definition of insanity.

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