Lowell Ullrich of The Province newspaper sports department joins us for a little BC Lions chat during this Western division bye week, a break that couldn’t come too soon for the struggling Lions and their fans. In this blogger’s opinion Lowell is the best in the business when it comes to reporting on all matter BC Lions, so we thought it would be a nice way to fill the bye by getting his thoughts on the Lions season to date and what’s to come in the future.
Q: Lowell the season has been a disaster to date and not many people have an up close and personal look at the club like you do. Is there anything that you see that gives you hope the Lions can turn things around after the break?
A: Thanks for the kind words. Things will get turned around; the question becomes how long will it take and whether all the problems are fixed at the same time. It’s probably not the response many people want but my thought is that we’ll see bits of improvement which, if it all happens on the same night, result in a win or two. Before everyone tosses out Casey Printers like we seem to have done with Travis Lulay, I’d like to see him play more than six quarters while healthy to see where this offence is headed.
Q: Here in the “blogosphere” as you often refer to it, there is a lot of heat being directed at the coaching staff and in particular Jacques Chapdelaine. The Lions offense has struggled for the better part of three years now, so what is to blame in your opinion? Coaching? Personnel? Schemes? All of the above?
A: You certainly have to think there’s enough for everyone to go around. Defensively, I think Mike Benevides had a real hard look at the shortcomings everyone saw on run defence and made changes. It has not obviously been as apparent on offence. It is our nature these days to get out the bazookas, or laptop in some cases, assess blame and move to the next topic. What has happened is not easily defined, other than to state the three-year period you cite coincides with the release of Dave Dickenson.
Q: In your opinion, how big of a blow was it to this organization to lose Bob O’Billovich and has Roy Shivers done enough as a replacement?
A: Bob’s loss was enormous, and not only for the obvious reasons. Also lost by the Lions was once of his associates. Richard Wade, who also went to scout for Hamilton. He does a lot of digging. Roy has his sources but you would like for the Lions to have a succession plan for scouting in play. Neil McEvoy and Barron Miles could be put to better use but in a limited-budget world of a CFL team, they are needed in other ways during the season. Personally, and this is only a guess, Barron will go elsewhere if not given a bigger role.
Q: Losing often can lead to division. You’re around practice every day and you talk to the players and the coaches. Is this team all pulling in one direction or are you starting to see frustration and division?
A: Best answer to give right now would be to look at Edmonton and compare. It comes out here and there to be sure. Most players are aware their comments can make the rounds in public forums, including this one, so are careful with what they say. Most frustration shows when you would figure it to be seen, which is after games.
Q: Lions fans can be described as fickle. Is the team in danger of losing fans with this record, or will the draw of Empire combined with the new and improved BC Place stadium and hosting the 2011 Grey Cup give them a grace period to get things turned around?
A: Obviously the draw of Empire wasn’t what core fans or the club thought it would be, but what will bring fans back is the thing that attracts everyone, success.
Q: In your opinion, is this Wally’s last year as a head coach and if the team doesn’t turn things around will he make changes to his staff?
A: The evidence represented in losses would lead you to believe as most, and this would be the last year in a coaching capacity. That would leave it to a successor to make changes.
Q: What in your mind is the single biggest thing holding this team back?
A: I’d be tempted to go with consistent quarterbacking and offensive line play and throw out the other trendy answers (coaching/scheme) It isn’t the biggest problem, but you’d also like to see the Lions draft better; you can’t keep missing the boat year after year. It’s seems like forever since Paris Jackson was drafted and another Canadian receiver was moulded into a 1,000-yard candidate.
Q: Obviously some big games are to come. Two dates with the Bombers and one with the Eskimos may decide whether this team makes a post-season appearance in 2010. Of the three teams which one do you think has the best chance to play in November?
A: Pretty amazing to think that way but true. It’s hard to think the Eskimos are going anywhere. Neither is Winnipeg without consistent quarterbacking. On that score, you have to still like the Lions because of who they have collectively behind centre.
Q: Stefan Logan is in tough in Pittsburgh by all reports. His performance last year could get him a look elsewhere if he’s cut, but do you think the Lions would go to the wall to sign him if he became available?
A: Lots would have to happen if he gets cut, not the least of which would be he’d have to escape the attention of every other NFL team which now has film on him. So, no, I don’t think they’d go through the wall, though they might give it a nudge to see what happens.
Our thank to Lowell for taking the time to do this. Follow him on Twitter: @FifthQtr and on his blog the Fifth Quarter and of course read his articles in The Province.