The Rouge: Should Buono step down as Lions' head coach?

Paul Hoogkamp, staff

8/24/2010 2:53:32 PM

Three years ago, the B.C. Lions finished first in the West with a record of 14-3-1. Two years ago, they fell to third place with 11 wins and 7 losses. Last year, the Lions finished last in the West with an 8-10 mark, the worst record since Wally Buono arrived in Vancouver seven years ago.
That downward spiral seems to have accelerated this year, with the Lions sitting at 1-6, leading to a question that seemed inconceivable when the season began: Should Buono step down as head coach of the B.C. Lions? 
With the bye week behind them, all eyes will be on Buono and the Lions when they host the high-flying Calgary Stampeders on Wendy's Friday Night Football. If there is no sign of improvement, more fans may begin to question Buono's future as head coach of the team.
Lions owner David Braley has shown his support for Buono many times in the past and this situation has not changed his mind.
''Wally is the general manager and head coach,'' Braley told The Canadian Press last week. ''He's going to stay in the position and he has my complete backing and trust.''
So it appears Buono will not be fired but should the future Hall of Famer initiate his own change at head coach? After all, how many 60-year-olds hold down two jobs?
In a poll on, fans were almost split between having Buono fired as head coach and trusting him to turn things around.
For his part, Buono thinks the problem is on the field, not on the sideline.
''There is no need to make changes in the coaching staff. There is nothing wrong with what we are doing,'' Buono said this past week. ''What's wrong with what we are doing is the player's inability to execute what we are doing.''
Injuries have played a role in the Lions' poor start with starting quarterback Casey Printers going down early in the season and Travis Lulay and Jarious Jackson unable to fill the void. It's likely no coincidence that the Lions are the lowest scoring team in the league, averaging less than 20 points per game.
Another factor in the losing trend could be the number of quality players lost in recent years either through NFL contracts or free agency. Defensive ends Cameron Wake and Ricky Foley as well as running backs Martell Mallett and Stefan Logan were impact players who have taken their act south of the border. And former Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman Rob Murphy left for greener pastures in Toronto, leaving a big hole along the O-line.
So how much of the blame should go toward the head coach? CFL on TSN analyst Milt Stegall thinks Buono deserves some heat because he holds down the two most important football positions in the organization. 
''I don't think he's in trouble but he should be,'' said Stegall on's CFL Roundtable. ''Each year since 2008, they've regressed and what happens next year if they win five or six games? He's the GM, he's the head coach, he makes all the decisions so everything is on him. He should be in some type of trouble.''
However, there are many other fans who feel the league's all-time leader in coaching wins is not the problem and deserves the benefit of the doubt. What's that old adage? -- 'He didn't forget to coach overnight.'
CFL on TSN analyst Matt Dunigan agrees with Stegall but wonders who could possibly fill Buono's shoes. Remember, it's always tough to follow a legend and Buono is certainly that.
''What's the alternative? Are you going to find somebody better than Wally Buono?'' said Dunigan. ''Maybe he loses one of his titles and they bring in another head coach. But where do you beat 236 wins?''
Would a coaching change turn around the fortunes of the Lions? Or do you give Buono a chance to do what he's done better than any other head coach in CFL history? Does his past guarantee his future? Or it is time for him to move on and concentrate on his GM duties?
Should Wally Buono step down as head coach of the B.C. Lions? It's Your Call.