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A Season on the Brink: Regression

Posted by Drew Mindell in A Season on the Brink on October 31, 2012 — No Comments

Another injury to QB Buck Pierce certainly didn’t help the Bombers in their quest for victory over Hamilton last Saturday

Regression.

In statistics this term generally refers to the relationship between one dependent variable and one or more changing, and thus independent, variable(s). Another interpretation of this term simply refers to a perceived backwards movement in progression. In Bomberville, one can use both definitions equally.

I will begin with the more colloquial version.

As Bomber fans remember, the Blue and Gold stumbled their way into the Grey Cup in 2011 only to be manhandled by the superior BC Lions. The Bombers put up a valiant effort, but were beaten in all three aspects of the game. That day, like many this season, the opposition was simply better. A berth in the championship, and a positive win-loss record was established last season. Keep this in mind.

From first place in the East in last year’s campaign, to last place this year: this has been a regression.  The play of the 3 main quarterbacks that have lined up behind center has at best gone from average play to consistently inconsistent. It seems that the regardless of the name bar, the quarterback of the moment flashes a glimmer of brilliance, and then pulls it away with a lame duck pass into traffic, a game ending injury, or an unintentional misdirection that leads to an interception. Bomber quarterbacks, in short, take fans to the precipice of hope that a brighter future was ahead, and then almost instantaneously shatters that hope and delivers a self-inflicted knockout punch.

The quarterbacks, however, are not the only obvious regression this season. Jonathon Hefney, Jovon Johnson, and Kito Poblah, to name a few, all have had less than stellar seasons. Moving positions (JJ), covering for others mistakes (JH), lining up in a less than ideal spot on the field for most of the season (KP) – are only part of the reason for regression. Tackles still needed to be made, and balls needed to be caught. There is no question that these guys are talented, and can be top-notch players in the CFL each and every game. Like the quarterbacks, however, they were consistently inconsistent. They regressed in their contributions to the overall team success, and thus made a significant and negative impact to the on field result.

The coaching staff and management are also not absent of regression. Putting the Burke vs. LaPolice debate aside – my interest here is in the offensive coordinator position. I am dumfounded to explain why in the rain and sleet, with a quarterback who arguably has the least zip on the ball of all Bomber pivots, was told to throw the ball as often as was called in this game. Perhaps Crowton thought this game plan would surprise the Ti-cat defence, who were prone to giving up big yards on the ground. I do not think this strategy only surprised the Ti-cats. It also surprised any and all people with football knowledge that watched the game.

To be fair, Carl Volny is not Chad Simpson. Nor is he Will Ford – but certainly he is good enough to have carried the load more than he did. Did the Bombers regress in terms of their offensive play and game plan strategies? Maybe yes. Maybe no. You decide.

On a more statistical front, regression is about relationships between known and observed variables, with the inherent predictability power of future outcomes. What this means in real life Bomber terms are that if one variable remains the same, what happens to the variables that it affects? For example, in keeping Joe Mack as GM of the franchise – what will the off-season look like for the Bombers in terms of player personnel? Specifically, does Mack make it his priority to recruit and sign better, and more experienced players to help with the inexperienced youth that populate that current roster?

Also, if the interim tag gets lifted off Tim Burke, does he get to pick his own assistant coaches and coordinators? If so, will he keep Crowton, or opt for a more CFL experienced coordinator to lead the 2013 offense.

And of course, I would be remiss to exclude the obvious: does Buck Pierce get the green light to lead the Bombers in 2013? Bomber fans know what he brings to the table, and also know his injury tendencies. But who else is out there to take his place?

This year has been has been  a considerable challenge from the ridiculous season starting four-week road trip to the season ending miracle-dependent chase for the playoffs. In one fell swoop the team has gone backwards, again. People around these parts will gladly support a competitive and dedicated team even if a Grey Cup is not immediately on the horizon. Winnipeg has more die-hard fans than most cities do even when including the bandwagon jumpers in their total count. Fans will not, however, continue to support a franchise that keeps regressing.