So, is it true? Do nice guys finish last? Is the reason that Paul LaPolice was fired as head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers because he lost respect from players, or certain players? Well, before a conclusion is made of the unknown, it is important to list the known.
First and most importantly, are the quarterbacks. You take away the top three quarterbacks from any team and that team will have problems. Buck Pierce, Alex Brink and Joey Elliot all have not been successful more because of injuries than ability.
Second: new offensive coordinator, Gary Crowton. He has an excellent résumé but when you bring in a new coordinator you are starting all over again, and that is what Winnipeg was facing back on June 30. On offense, they were starting all over again; learning instead of mastering one more time.
Third: four consecutive road games. That is brutal in a sport where home field is an advantage more than perhaps any other sport. Before you know it, your team is burnt out because the toughest schedule challenge came at the most inopportune time.
And finally: attitude. Did he lose the locker room or do the players need to grow up and demonstrate a more professional attitude? When Johnathan Hefney basically refused a position change, I sensed there was a problem. When players missed flights off the bye week, I sensed a problem. When the penalties of discipline keep being seen, I sensed a problem. And in the end, it is the head coach's problem.
Fear in football is a funny thing. You need it. To be your best, you need to fear losing your job, even though there may not be a reality that you will. To play your best, you need to fear your opponent, not in a debilitating way but out of understanding that in the world of one-on-one football it is either you or him. And in a way, you need to fear your boss - your coach - because if you don't, you will settle for second best over the long run because of an absence of fear pressure.
Every now and then I am asked by someone I don't even know what is pro football like? And I give the well-rehearsed answer based on experience of what I did and what I didn't like; which does not even answer the question. What is pro football like? Well, it's one gigantic anxiety trip. It's a sport where, if you don't prove yourself every week, someone else will. Where everything and everyone is graded and evaluated just to find anything to improve upon. And a sport that is more of an experience than a career, as the average time spent on a team is three years. Three years is not a career, it is an education.
Fear is everywhere and is useful when channeled and used for purpose. And fear is a feeling of anxiety. So what is Tim Burke going to do as the Bombers' new head coach? Most likely bring more fear, more anxiety and more demands of excellence. Will his approach work? I have no idea and will have to look at it a month from now.
When Mike Kelly was the head coach of the Bombers, stadium attendance was way down, at an all-time low. When Paul LaPolice took over, it was back to an all-time high. The fans wanted to support his team and did not want to support the previous team. It's a statistical fact. Are they going to support Tim Burke as head coach? It's unknown until proven. The bottom line is the record of wins and losses cannot be disputed. But from Dave Richi to Doug Berry to Mike Kelly to Paul LaPolice and now to Tim Burke, when is it going to end? Transition after transition after transition. Maybe that is why the longest Grey Cup drought without a win resides in Manitoba and not so much whether Paul LaPolice was feared or not.