He didn’t accomplish what he hoped to during his 25-game run as offensive coordinator of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, but Gary Crowton certainly took the “high road” when he was shown the door by the Bombers and immediately replaced by Marcel Bellefeuille on Sunday.
According to Bob Irving, Bombers receiver Chris Matthews will be sidelined for the next 4-6 weeks after injuring his foot in last week's loss to the Tiger-Cats.
“I really enjoyed working for the Blue Bombers, their fans are second to none. I think Tim Burke’s a great coach, if they just give him a little bit of time he’ll get this thing working real well," said Crowton.
"We struggled on offence, we couldn’t establish any consistency and I feel bad about that. I don’t have any hard feelings, we just didn’t win enough games and that’s the bottom line for me. I apologize we didn’t get more wins, the fans deserve more.”
After three decades of coaching in the U.S., mostly in the college ranks, Crowton could never seem to fully grasp some of the basic concepts of the Canadian game.
The Bombers were at or near the bottom in all categories of offensive production this year. And so, less than a week after the firings of General Manager Joe Mack and CEO and President Garth Buchko, the Bombers have made another significant change.
Now it’s up to Bellefeuille, who joined the Bomber staff just over a week ago, to see if he can get more production out of the Winnipeg offence.
It won’t be easy. Not only have the Bombers had a revolving door at the quarterback position, but they go into a rematch this week with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats without receiver Chris Matthews and slotback Cory Watson.
Watson has been out for a month with a hamstring injury while Matthews hurt his foot in last week's 37-18 loss to the Ticats and will be sidelined 4-6 weeks.
Bellefeuille and head coach Tim Burke have decided to go back to stay with Max Hall as their starting quarterback. Both felt Hall did enough good things last week in his first ever CFL start to warrant another look.
Bellefeuille, who is rich in Canadian football experience, said he found “disconnects” in Crowton’s offensive system as they relate to the Canadian game. And he talked about “evolving to a CFL offence as quickly as we can based on how quickly we can simplify some things and how quickly the players can learn.”
Bellefeuille also suggested that the Bombers might be short on talent in some key areas and that type of deficiency will be difficult to overcome, at least in the short term.
Burke also outlined a "philosophical" change within the organization. The arrival in Winnipeg Tuesday of 5-year Hamilton veteran defensive back Bo Smith signals a shift in thinking regarding bringing in veteran players who have been released by other clubs.
Mack was reluctant to recruit what he considered to be recycled players. But Burke says that reluctance no longer exists. The Bombers will actively pursue players with CFL experience that they feel can upgrade their talent, and who might pose a threat to some of the vets on the team who have become too comfortable in their positions.
So, the changes continue in Winnipeg as a season that held much promise is close to going completely off the rails.
However, if Bellefeuille can inject some positive changes into the offensive scheme, and if Burke can get his erratic defensive dozen to play better, the Bombers might still be able to author a turn-around.
Bob Irving has covered the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for CJOB Radio in Winnipeg since 1973. Bob is the Sports Director at CJOB and is in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, reporters division. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobIrvingCJOB