Sometimes you have to crawl before you walk, walk before you run, and run before you sprint. I make this statement in reference to Winnipeg Blue Bombers football because I see a progression leading to success.
A 4-14 season is a disaster, but nine of their losses were by four points or less. If, and I realize this is a huge if, the Blue Bombers had won all of their close games, they would have finished the season at 13-5, tied with Calgary for the best record in the league. That is how you have to look at it and ask, how can we win the close games?
Excellence in kicking will help. If you need a 55-yard field goal to win – and you get it – that is excellence in kicking.
Making your last possession on offense a points-producing possession would also help. If the Bombers have the ball with less than three minutes to play, needing points, the starting 12 on offense must be the reason for a win.
And on the other side, if the opposition has the ball late in the game, the starting 12 on defence has to be the reason why the Bombers win with no time left.
For Winnipeg, it's not so much about playing the best football possible; it's about playing the best football possible at the end of the game. And that takes awareness from both the coaches and the players.
You see it a lot in football: everyone on the bench raises a hand, indicating it is the fourth quarter. This is just to remind everybody this is it, we either win or lose, right here in the final 15 minutes.
To have a chance, Winnipeg must be an excellent fourth quarter team this year; winning the close games is everything.
And if QB Buck Pierce can stay healthy, it will go a long way to winning all of those games.
Pierce spent the off-season in Winnipeg and is in the best shape of his life. He is a good quarterback that is close to being great, but he has to stay on the field. Steven Jyles is now an Argonaut and it is a risk: what makes Toronto better makes the Bombers weaker.
But, for the first time in a long time, Winnipeg has put together a good Canadian draft, in part because of the first-round pick acquired for Jyles.
One of Pierce, Joey Elliott, or Alex Brink has to emerge as an 18-game starter for Winnipeg, and if one does, the Bombers should dramatically improve on their 4-14 regular season record of last year. And if one doesn't, they won't.
The other key area of concern in Winnipeg will be that defensive end Phillip Hunt is gone and the Bombers must find a replacement.
What I thought was one of the quietest but best moves in the off-season was the hiring of Tim Burke as defensive coordinator in Winnipeg.
Burke's proven success in Montreal can be duplicated in Winnipeg because the system is proven; it is now a question of talent and depth.
The Bombers will be better on defence, should be better on offense, and must improve on special teams.
With season tickets sales at an all-time high, the NHL returning to the city, and a history of enthusiastic fans, all of a sudden Winnipeg has a new energy and feeling that has not been present in over a decade.
It is great to see the south come to the north will all that money that is the NHL. And it would be great to see the Bombers travel west that last week in November.
No other team has gone longer without a Grey Cup victory longer than Winnipeg; it is time to change that reality.