Winnipeg Blue Bombers' head coach Tim Burke's first game went about as wrong as a debut possibly can, so his comments Wednesday in the wake of that 52-0 trouncing by Saskatchewan were perfectly apt. As Paul Friesen writes, Burke had a simple message for those who want to write off the 2-7 Bombers completely: "We're not dead, yet." Those words should sound awfully familiar:
Of course, the Bombers' situation isn't quite as bad as that of Black Plague-ravaged Europe, but it's not necessarily all that far off. Sunday's rout wasn't an outlier, but rather confirmation of many of the issues that have plagued Winnipeg all year, and as most of those are about the personnel rather than the schemes, it's very tough to see the Bombers making a radical turnaround and getting back to the Grey Cup game. Heck, even a playoff berth seems unrealistic at the moment; the worst record a CFL team's made the postseason with in a while is 8-10 (2010 B.C., 2011 Hamilton), and Winnipeg would have to go 6-3 (the best record in the league over the first half) to finish that well. It's not like the Bombers are losing close ones, either, as they've conceded a league-high 296 points while scoring a league-low 176. It's worth pointing out that despite his protests, the "not-dead-yet" man was eventually bashed in the head and put on the cart in the film, a fate that may still await Winnipeg's season. However, there's always a chance, particularly if their team can come out with a snappy Broadway song-and-dance number:
At the moment, the Bombers' chief concern might be their shortage of offensive weaponry. In lieu of such diverse elements as fear, surprise and fanatical loyalty to the Pope, the Bombers have been unable to find consistent blockers, passers or rushers. The most hope may be at quarterback, where Joey Elliott has had promising moments (even if he didn't show much in the fiasco against Saskatchewan), but he needs help to stay on his feet. The Winnipeg offensive line had surrendered a league-high 23 sacks heading into Sunday's contest, and the Bombers' quarterbacks were continuously under pressure against the Riders, even if they were only taken down twice. Winnipeg general manager Joe Mack isn't going to be sacked yet, but you can't say the same about the Bombers' pivots. They've also struggled in the run game; Chad Simpson has been very underwhelming, and one of Mack's chief failures has to be the lack of solid running back depth he's brought in (and there are plenty of talented, veteran RBs out there, either as backups or as free agents), but the world's best running back can't do much without good blocking. Burke can insist that the Bombers aren't yet completely dead, and given the history of weird turnarounds in the CFL, he might just have a bit of a point, but you'll have to forgive opposing teams if they respond with another line from the film, "What are you going to do, bleed on me?"