Bombers' dismal season leaves room for major changes
Winnipeg finished campaign 3-15, tied for team's worst ever record
For veteran receiver Terrence Edwards, a season like the one the Winnipeg Blue Bombers just ended is about as depressing as it gets.
Edwards and his teammates cleared out their lockers Sunday after finishing 3-15, tied for the team's worst ever record in the 18-game CFL, capped with a crushing 37-7 loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Looking up from the CFL cellar isn't where a receiver who has spent nine seasons in the league — seven with the Bombers — wants to be at the age of 34.
"It hurts," said the softspoken native of Tennille, Ga. "Could it be my last season? . . . I'm planning on returning next year but you never know what will happen, this is professional sports.
"It would be a sad thing if I left Winnipeg with this taste in my mouth."
Despite injuries that limited his playing time, Edwards finished second on the Winnipeg receiving yards list in 2013 with 549.
It hurts. Could it be my last season? . . . I'm planning on returning next year but you never know what will happen, this is professional sports. It would be a sad thing if I left Winnipeg with this taste in my mouth.- Bombers' Terrence Edwards
It's a far cry from his three previous 1,000-yard plus seasons but this year the team also had a revolving door at quarterback, as they tried to find some consistency.
They dumped Buck Pierce, struggled behind a series of backups, and landing a legitimate starter is job one for whoever is leading the Bombers into next season.
With five head coaches in nine years, plus changes at other key spots, consistency throughout the organization seems lacking.
General manager Joe Mack and sophomore president Garth Buchko paid with their jobs for the team's struggles.
Coach Tim Burke doesn't know what the future will hold for him. This was his first full season after taking over mid-2012 from Paul LaPolice.
But he agrees stability and success seem to go together in the CFL.
"I think if you look at the teams that are most successful, they're the most stable," he said in what, for now at least, was his last scheduled meeting with reporters.
"If you look at Calgary, I think they're very stable outfit. B.C., very stable. Through the years Montreal has been very stable. It usually starts at the very top."
The very top right now isn't all that stable either. Team president Wade Miller, a former player, and general manager Kyle Walters both have "acting" in front of their titles.
And they not only need to add new talent, they'll have a struggle hanging on to some of the best now wearing a Bomber jersey.
Looking for NFL gig
Receiver Chris Matthews, the CFL's outstanding rookie in 2012, spent this season on the injury list. But as a free agent he'll be trying his luck in the NFL before he thinks about returning to the CFL.
Henoc Muamba, the team's most outstanding defensive player and a Canadian to boot, has yet to commit to returning.
"It's still too soon. Negotiations are still in process, my agent is taking care of that, and we're taking it one day at a time," he said Sunday.
A lot of fingers have been pointed at the self-perpetuating board of the community-owned team for not making better decisions.
They weren't confined to who's running the team. The new $200-million stadium the Bombers finally opened a year late this season also came with more headaches.
An open-air pressbox at Investors Group Field, for example, needs a $400,000 refit before the CFL will approve a Grey Cup for the city, which the team would like to land in 2015 or 2016.
A lack of planning saw many fans tied up in traffic for hours as they tried to make their way through the few congested roads that allow access to the stadium site, the campus of the University of Manitoba.
Those fans would have been a lot happier about the cracked concrete they stepped over when they finally did get to their seats if they had a team capable of winning more than one home game.
If there is a bright side to the disaster this season brought, it may be that major change is unavoidable. And that the stars are aligned to make it easier.
"Sometimes it does take something like this to create change," says veteran offensive lineman Glenn January, who, like Edwards, doesn't want to end his career on such a low note.
"I think there is going to be change across the league with the expansion draft. We'll have to wait and see."
The Bombers could learn a little from other teams, suggests Edwards.
"I just think some of the philosophies that we've had the last years haven't worked," he says.
"Kyle Walters, if he's the new GM, and Wade need to look at the models some of the other CFL teams have ... and try to emulate some of those things they have done.
"Apparently it works for them. What we did, didn't."