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Can Marcel Bellefeuille fix the Bombers’ offence?

Andrew Bucholtz
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Can former Hamilton coach Marcel Bellefeuille help fix Winnipeg's offence?

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are going from one unconventional move to another. The team ditched CEO Garth Buchko and general manager Joe Mack Friday, replacing them with former player Wade Miller and assistant GM Kyle Walters (the former with an acting tag, the latter without any immediate promotion), and now they're starting to make further unusual changes. Key amongst those? The hiring of former Hamilton Tiger-Cats head coach Marcel Bellefeuille as a consultant, likely focused on the offensive side of the ball. Sportsnet's Arash Madani broke the news Saturday night that the Bombers are expected to announce Bellefeuille's hiring soon, and added that it could put extra pressure on current offensive coordinator Gary Crowton:

One day after general manager Joe Mack was fired and CEO Garth Buchko was shown the door, the franchise has added to its football staff.

Sportsnet.ca has learned the Blue Bombers are expected to announce the hiring of former Hamilton Tiger-Cats head coach Marcel Bellefeuille as a coaching “consultant.”

Bellefeuille’s hiring is not good news for offensive coordinator Gary Crowton, who was said to be quite close with Mack. Sources in Winnipeg told Sportsnet there has been friction between Crowton and head coach Tim Burke. With the former GM out of the picture, it’s likely Bellefeuille will be taking over more responsibilities on offence.

What makes this unusual is the consultant tag. There had been talk for some time that Winnipeg would bring in an offensive consultant, but that's far from a typical position in the CFL. It's not completely unprecedented, though, and what's notable is that "offensive consultants" have often become offensive coordinators. That happened with Kevin Strasser in Edmonton a few seasons ago, and it just happened in Montreal with Doug Berry being promoted to play-caller (albeit with Mike Miller retaining the coordinator's title). The Alouettes' situation shows that this idea isn't a guaranteed success, though, as their three-headed offensive leadership looked more like The Three-Headed Knight than Cerberus in their 38-13 loss to Toronto Thursday night. While Bellefuille has done plenty of impressive things on the offensive side of the ball over the years, it's going to be very interesting to see how he's able to work with the CFL-inexperienced and oft-criticized Crowton. Bringing in Bellefeuille to call the shots wouldn't be a guaranteed recipe for success either, but that (or firing Crowton and promoting someone from within would be a more typical move than this one.

This feeds right in to the unconventional approaches the Bombers are using these days, though. The departures of Buchko and Mack would be a highly-unusual train of events at midseason under any circumstances, but they were one made even more curious by how it played out. The news leaked Thursday that Buchko asked the board to fire Mack, and then the next day saw them both jettisoned. Similarly, this Bellefeuille hiring, which was already odd thanks to the consultant role, was made even more unusual by the news of a general consultant search leaking some time ago and then the news of the specific guy being hired leaking a day after the GM and CEO both were pushed out. We'll see how this works out for Winnipeg. There are reasons to think Bellefeuille may be able to help the Bombers' moribund offence, but he's entering a volatile situation at an odd time. It's not an easy task ahead of him, or ahead of this team.

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