A Season on the Brink: Great Expectations
Editor’s note: Following each Winnipeg Blue Bombers game, win or lose, Dr. Richard Hechter, an Assistant Professor of Science and Mathematics Education in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba, will examine some of the key moments and decisions of the previous game.
Charles Dickens I am not, but I certainly am guilty of having great expectations. The epic disappointment of my expectations, which I will share with you today, is rooted in two primary areas; Elliott, and Joe Mack.
Last week in this space I suggested that Joey Elliott was seemingly transforming from perceived potential to CFL starter courtesy of good reads, poise, and a keen awareness of the offensive structure and design. With two Gibson’s Finest Player of the Week accolades in his back pocket, and the stellar Montreal game still faintly appearing in the rear view mirror, the bar seemed set and resultant expectations high.
Leading up to the Calgary game, the focus in Bomberland, interesting enough, was on Buck Pierce’s health with Joey Elliott being a viable option as the second string to the franchise quarterback in Pierce only if needed. Interim head coach Tim Burke told Bomber fans, straight up, that he did not believe Joey Elliott is the answer at quarterback.
While I understand the purpose of uttering the party-line rhetoric of identifying Buck Pierce as the “Franchise Quarterback”, what effect did this have on Joey Elliott’s psyche? How did this minimal support for former the offensive Player of the Week affect the psyche of the team as a whole? Truthfully, I think it revealed that Tim Burke has a firm grasp on the parameters of the current roster. Like it or not, Burke is coaching the players he has before him, and he is doing an admirable job. The Bombers have been playing better of late (for the most part) and that should not go unnoticed. Burke needed Elliott to have another good game; unfortunately that did not happen.
With expectations of a repeat performance – or even a reasonable facsimile – high, Elliott threw exactly four red-zone interceptions. While he took ownership of the miscues in his post-game interview, the words did little to soften the statistics. In this case, the story emerging from the statistics was plain and clear.
Elliott moved the ball well in the middle of the field, but seemed overwhelmed by the scoring zone scenarios and simply threw bad passes. This was a significant departure from last week, and as such, grounded most of the expectations that were placed on him.
Elliott, however, was only part of the great disappointment of Saturday’s tilt against Calgary. General Manager Joe Mack also contributed to the collective sigh on Milt Stegall Drive. Yes, Joe Mack.
What seems like many moons ago, Joe Mack appeared behind a microphone at the Blue and Gold headquarters and told Bomber fans, players and media that Paul LaPolice was relieved of his duties as head coach of the football club. In his remarks, Mack identified coming to resolution with needing a change of direction for the struggling team and a new face and voice to lead the charge. Mack proclaimed, for anyone and everyone to hear, that the struggling offence was now being handed to Coordinator Crowton. Bomber fans were told to expect positive changes, and see them reflected on the field. In his words, Paul LaPolice was to blame for this mess, as the team roster was rife with talent and youth that he had hand-picked (or let go), and Tim Burke would now rally the troops to fight the good cause. These were the expectations set by the General Manager. Unlike those of Elliott that I developed on my own accord, this is what Bomber nation was told.
While these two cases are different in context, the result, sadly, is equal. Both cases elicited great expectations, but yielded great disappointment. There is however one key difference: Joey Elliott stood up and took responsibility for his errors, while Joe Mack seems to have disappeared. Perhaps this, as opposed to a mastermind aiming to turn the Bomber fortunes around, is what Bomber fans should expect from Joe Mack.