The BC Lions haven’t had much success this off-season in getting their man. It started in the off-season when they courted the likes of Paul LaPolice and George Cortez for their offensive coordinator positions and were declined on both fronts.
Then came free agency, where the club was bold and aggressive in its pursuit of some of the big names, only to get none of them. For fans who were hoping some solid editions to the 2014 team that has brought a lot of disappointment and in some cases frustration.
Thankfully, Wally Buono has been around long enough to know that consistently competitive teams are not built through free agency, but through the draft and finding players through free agent camps and development.
Surely Buono would have liked to have kept Nick Moore. A player that they found through free agent camps and developed while he learned from the best, Geroy Simon. Last year Buono had seen enough to move Simon to Saskatchewan and Moore into the starting role created by his departure.
Moore took advantage of his opportunity, leading the Lions in receiving and putting up his first 1000 yard season as a pro. In a perfect scenario, he would have remained here and built on that success but the business side of football came calling from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the numbers were high enough that Buono was willing to say goodbye to the player he helped mould.
“When you go about building your team you do have to maintain a vision of two to three years down the road,” said Buono on BCLions.com. “We’re not going mortgage long-term competitiveness simply to make a splash in February with one or two players. We owe our fans a team that’s stable over the long haul.”
And that’s what Buono has done his whole career. He’s separated himself from the players so that he can be objective when it comes to the business side of the game. Players don’t always like that, and the fans get upset when their favourite player leaves. But all will be forgotten if Buono can find more diamonds in the rough like Cord Parks.
Things don’t always work out the way you plan of course. The Lions record in recent drafts have been hit and miss at best and they will certainly want to find some quality in this year’s selections, but it’s all part of the process. You win some and you lose some.
So while fans express their frustrations at being shutout through free agency, those who have been around a while will know that’s just a small part of building a winning football club. Not just for this year, but for the long term future. It would be good advice to look at things from the business side from time to time and realize that the days when a player plays for one team his entire career are extremely rare in today’s age of salary management systems and free agency.
“The one thought I kept saying to myself over and over again was that our philosophy is not to buy players but find players,” Buono said. “When we’ve taken that approach we’ve always gotten better.”
Buono has done it many times, and given a little patience, he’s likely to do it again even if he has to do it the old fashioned way.