This series of articles will celebrate (or laugh at) some of the worst professional sports teams of all time. I will focus on teams within my lifetime so expect the worst from the 1970s to present day.
In 2011, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were vying for the Grey Cup. Two years later, they were one of the worst teams in CFL history. How did things go so wrong for the Blue and Gold? It starts with two people. Garth Buchko and Joe Mack.
Let’s go back to 2011. It was supposed to be the last year for the Bombers at aging Canad Inns Stadium. The Bombers were supposed to move into a sparkling brand new stadium for the 2012 season. Instead, Garth The Barf goes to the media throng that is happy to kiss his ass and says the wind is delaying opening the stadium. THE WIND!!!!! What the hell is that kind of excuse? It’s Winnipeg. It gets windy here. Hell, Portage and Main is considered the windiest intersection in the world. Why couldn’t you admit to the people of the city who paid for your stadium that you screwed up? Oh, right. You’re Garth Buchko. You are God. Nothing can ever go wrong under Garth Buchko’s reign.
Buchko was formally the general manager of radio stations CJOB and its sister station Power 97. CJOB was and still is the longtime radio station of the Bombers. He never had any experience in running a professional sports team. But the Bomber board of directors decided that Buchko was the ideal man to become the CEO of the Bombers in 2010. Buchko, with his frosted hair and his car-dealer smile was the fresh face of the franchise, vowing to make the Bombers profitable. Instead they were a laughingstock.
When Investors Group Field finally opened this season, the problems stuck out like a sore thumb. With only two major routes entering and exiting the stadium, traffic was an absolute nightmare for the paying customers. The fans were forced to use transit (people here in Winnipeg are very apathetic about using transit) or worse yet, school buses to get to games. SCHOOL BUSES! Yes, Bomber management thought of their supporters as Grade 2 students waiting for a note signed by their parents so they can go to the game. Absolutely pathetic!
But it wasn’t just the fans who were treated miserably. The media had to deal with an outdoor press box to do their jobs. The people who cover the team for a living plus the national media such as TSN had to deal with the wacky weather that Winnipeg brings throughout the year. Either raging heat in the summer, to rain and mosquitos, to a chilling wind in the autumn, the media had to deal with sometimes inclement weather, to reach their deadlines. You would think, a man such as Garth the Barf, who used to work in the media would know better than to leave the press box out in the open and uncovered. But nope, the bumbling Buchko and the stadium planners forgot that little detail.
Then there was parking. Now parking will always be an issue in every city. Everybody who has ever driven a car in a big city will complain about the lack of parking. It goes with the territory. But with a new stadium being paid with taxpayers money, you would think the Bombers would leave ample parking space. But that wasn’t the case. Not only was there a lack of parking, the Bombers refused to let people park on public streets, or letting homeowner who lived nearby the stadium let people park on their driveways without charging them. The fans howled in protest and the Bombers did back off, but the damage was done. Garth the Barf was exposed as a greedy, self-centered bastard who shouldn’t be allowed in Winnipeg ever again.
The Board wasn’t done there, hiring Joe Mack to be the general manager. Mack did have previous experience with the Blue and Gold, serving as director of player personnel from 1984 to 1987. Mack even worked in the NFL, serving as a scout for the Atlanta Falcons, director of pro scouting for the Washington Redskins, assistant general manager of the Carolina Panthers, and director of player personnel of the Cleveland Browns. While that is a solid resume, all of those jobs were in the 1990s. His last job in football was director of football operations for the New York/New Jersey Hitmen of the XFL in 2001. THE XFL! Remember them?
Since 2001, Mack had been out of football, yet the board in their infinite wisdom thought he was the right man to lead the Bombers to the Grey Cup. Instead he led them to a train wreck of epic proportions. Mack made some incredibly questionable decisions in terms of player personnel. The biggest mistake was not going after free agent quarterbacks Kevin Glenn and Mike Reilly, and sticking with the oft-injured Buck Pierce as his number one quarterback. What was more insane was that the Bombers had no experienced backup to come in when Pierce either got injured or struggled. Pierce struggled and got injured, so the Bombers had to throw in Justin Goltz and Max Hall as signal callers. That worked out as well as Napoleon invading Russia. While Reilly showed potential on a struggling Edmonton team, and Glenn was a key component in Calgary finishing first in the Western Division, the trio of Pierce, Goltz and Hall stunk worse than a Peter Griffin fart. Hall put up the best numbers of the three, completing 58.1% of his pass attempts for 1,839 yards, 9 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Pierce completed 60.9% of his pass attempts for 946 yards, 2 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Goltz completed 55.5% of his pass attempts for 886 yards, 2 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.
It didn’t help that the offensive line couldn’t block a gaggle of girl scouts trying to sell cookies. The O-Line surrendered 50 sacks to the quarterback, an average of 2.7 sacks per game. These quarterbacks were getting pounded on more often than John Bonham’s drum kit during Led Zeppelin’s 1973 tour. (The CFL does not keep track of sacks allowed, the numbers were added up manually.) In short, the Bombers offence were last in 15 different categories. Point scored (354, or 19.6 points per game) touchdowns scored, yards passing, net offence, first downs, fumbles, field goals scored, rushing yards, yards per play, yards per pass play, time of possession, turnovers allowed, sacks allowed, touchdown percentage and interceptions. And you wonder why this team sucked!
No receiver topped the 1,000 yard mark. In the pass-happy CFL, a 1,000 yard receiver should be an automatic. But 846 receiving yards by Clarence Denmark was the best any Bomber receiver could muster in 2013. Yes, injuries to Terrence Edwards and Cory Watson didn’t help, but still no 1,000 yard receiver on a CFL team means you have a bad CFL team.
The defence wasn’t horrible. Who am I kidding. The defence was horrible. The biggest problem was they spent far too much time on the field, and were dead tired by the second half. Alex Hall was a lone bright spot with his 15 sacks. But the defensive end was dealt to Saskatchewan at the trade deadline for offensive lineman Patrick Neufeld and a draft pick. Hall is set to become a free agent, and will most likely take his chances in the NFL, so this was a deal the Bombers had to make. That being said, the Bombers allowed 585 points or an average of 32.5 points per game which was by far the most in the CFL in 2013. This team couldn’t score and got scored upon by the truckload.
Add it all up and you have a team that went 3-15 for the season, the worst season in 15 years for the Bombers. The biggest miracle of this wretched team is that they actually won 3 games. This team should have gone 0-18. How did the Montreal Alouettes lose twice to this team at home I’ll never understand. The Bombers only home win was an emotional Banjo Bowl victory over the hated Saskatchewan Roughriders. Right after that game, the Bombers traded Buck Pierce to the B.C. Lions for receiver Akeem Foster. Which leads to the low point of the season.
There were many low points of the Bombers 2013 season. But on September 27, the absolute lowest point perhaps in franchise history took place. The aforementioned B.C. Lions were in town with Pierce in tow to face the Bombers. The Lions were challenging for top spot in the West while the Bombers playoff hopes were fading fast. It went wrong from the very beginning. On the first play from scrimmage, Bombers running back Will Ford fumbled, and the Lions recovered for a touchdown. The rest was downhill. Things got so bad for Bomber fans that when Pierce entered the game as the Lions QB, he got a standing ovation from the Bomber crowd. In fact the Bomber fans turned on the team and started cheering for Pierce and the Lions whenever he completed a pass. While Pierce didn’t lead a touchdown drive, the Lions did manage a couple of field goals which brought more cheers from the Bomber “faithful” than any scoring play from Winnipeg. The Lions romped to an easy 53-17 win over the hapless Bombers. It was a humiliating night for the Blue & Gold.
The future is very uncertain for the Bombers. Garth the Barf and Joe Mack were both fired after a 1-5 start. But their stench still remains on the club. Former Bomber Wade Miller is the acting CEO while Kyle Walters moves up to general manager, after being Mack’s assistant. Coach Tim Burke is still the coach as of this writing. But he doesn’t deserve to be. There were many games where Burke seemed overmatched and completely lost. He didn’t have the talent, but he also didn’t have a clue. His future remains unclear.
The franchise remains a complete mess. To make matters worse, season ticket prices in certain sections are going up. This, after coming off a horrid season where you make my list as one of the worst teams ever. Why would anyone accept a raise in ticket prices after watching that abomination on the field, while treated like second-class citizens off the field is beyond me.
The 2013 Winnipeg Blue Bombers. I could call them a train wreck, but that would be an insult to train wrecks.
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