The sub-plots run deep with all of the turnover and turmoil in Winnipeg over the last few weeks, but this week — the week of the annual Labour Day Classic in Regina — it is all about trying to find a modicum of success, their first win in nearly two months and working to re-tool the club piece by piece.
“It really is, it is a rebuild so to speak, but you can only tweak week-to-week to get to the rebuild so the plan takes a little bit longer,” said Blue Bombers offensive coordinator Marcel Bellefeuille as he enters his second game in control of the offence. “You don't have a training camp. You have to game plan week-to-week. You're trying to win football games. But you also have to have that balance and understand that you have long-term questions that also have to be answered.”
Cue the familiar music: Same ol' song and dance.
As Bellefeuille, head coach Tim Burke, and acting general manager Kyle Walters spin their rosary beads, dig out the old rabbit's foot and search the prairie sky for a shooting star hoping for a scenario that will bring an experienced and/or bona fide starting quarterback into the fold, the team is looking to work best with what they have.
For now, that's Justin Goltz.
“It's much simpler now with Marcel's system, so I think he's just got to make sure he goes to the right side of the field with his reads, number one,” said Burke. “And then the other thing is to get his feet set ready to throw the ball. And I think that because it's simpler for the quarterbacks, he knows right away where to go with the ball... Because it is simpler, that allows him to physically be better. We're hoping that translates well.”
“I mean, really and truly he's basically in his rookie year. So it takes a little bit of time. A guy like Max (Hall), you probably don't need as much time to see him because he has a wealth of professional experience. And then a guy like Buck (Pierce), he just has to be healthy and go out and play his game. Everybody is a little bit different.”
“I like what he's doing. Coach Bellefeuille has really helped clear some stuff up,” said Goltz of the new offence he has been working with since Gary Crowton was relieved of his coordinator duties two weeks ago. “I really like stepping up to the line of scrimmage and having a process, having clear-cut keys and directions to go with the football. It helps out as a quarterback being confident in where you're going with the football. And it helps out mechanic-wise, accuracy-wise when you're not second guessing yourself so I think it's helped out quite a bit.”
Burke is dealing with injuries at several positional areas, but most critically with his pivots. With Hall not yet 100 per cent after injuring his throwing hand in Week 9 and Buck Pierce out indefinitely with a suspected upper-torso injury suffered in the same game, the team will put its troubled offence in the hands of the 26-year-old as they enter the rowdy Labour Day confines of Mosaic Stadium where the majority of the 44,910 in attendance will be wearing green and working hard to deafen the Blue and Gold attack.
“Everybody on offence has got to help our quarterbacks out, regardless of who the quarterback is,” added Winnipeg's bench boss. “The receivers have to run the right routes. They have to beat people. Saskatchewan plays a lot of man-to-man coverage so the receivers have to beat their DBs. Our offensive line has to block well to protect the quarterback and to get the running game going.”
“The thing I told our defence is; our offence is struggling so we've got to go out there and we've got to keep us in games. We've got to play well enough to be in the game at the end of the game when we have a chance for our offence to win it. And that's the way we were in 2011. We had a good start to the season going 7-1 and we were playing great defence and we were winning the turnover battles as a team, and that's what we've got to do.”
Burke “fondly” remembers 2011 when the then 7-1 Bombers entered Regina to face the 1-7 Roughriders. And just two years later the tables have turned completely. Now, can the club sitting at 1-7 once again take both of the back-to-backs from the 7-1 club like they did before?
Notes: This week Winnipeg made several additions to their roster, including a few ex-Ticats that former Hamilton head coach Marcel Bellefeuille is familiar with: receiver Aaron Kelly, quarterback Jason Boltus, and defensive end Greg Peach. The team also signed former NFL-standout receiver Mike Sims-Walker, and journeyman kicker Brody McKnight. To make room, the team cut kicker Justin Palardy, receiver Isaac Anderson, and defensive end Freddie Harris. Aaron Kelly will start at wideout this week in place of Doug Pierce, while Sims-Walker, Boltus, and Peach will back up... Quarterback Max Hall, whose throwing hand was severely swollen early this week, took two days of practice and hopes to be nearing full health come game time. He will be the No. 2 option... Slotback Cory Watson returns this week after missing nearly a month with a hamstring pull suffered in practice... Slotback Rory Kohlert will be out a couple weeks with an injured hamstring... Guard Steve Morley will be out a month with a scheduled scope surgery on his knee... Andre Douglas will make his first start of the season at right tackle in place of Shannon Boatman.