It’s impossible to spoil the ending to this particular chapter in the storied history of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Everyone who is a fan of the franchise, after all, knows how this last decade ended. Indeed, that scene from the final Sunday last November – with the players celebrating on a frosty field at McMahon Stadium in Calgary following a 33-12 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the 107th Grey Cup – is one that will be etched in many memory banks for years to come.
That win in the 2019 Grey Cup was not only the 11th in Blue Bomber history, it mercifully broke the franchise’s longest championship drought which had dated back to 1990.
Like so many others, the last decade featured its share of peaks and valleys for the Bombers, who moved into a new stadium on the University of Manitoba campus in 2013, underwent a leadership change at the very top with Wade Miller becoming President and CEO that same year, and struggled before finding some consistency on the field in the latter half of the 10-year period.
The decade opened with Paul LaPolice at the controls as the new head coach and following a 4-14 season in 2010, the club was in the Grey Cup game a year later – alas, falling to the B.C. Lions.
That 2011 campaign proved to be a blip in the first half of the decade, as the Bombers then went just 21-51 from 2012 through 2015, missed the playoffs in each of those four years and underwent two coaching changes.
But a consistent and patient build, led by Miller, GM Kyle Walters and head coach Mike O’Shea began to yield dividends in 2016 and over the next four seasons, the Bombers qualified for the playoffs before that magical run November.
Yes, following three consecutive playoff heartaches in 2016, 2017 and 2018 the Bombers of 2019 erased much of that pain by beating the Calgary Stampeders in Cowtown in the West Semi-Final, the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Regina in the West Final before that memorable performance in the win over the Ticats on Grey Cup Sunday.
The stories within the story – with Zach Collaros at the controls after a last-second deal at the trade deadline and with Andrew Harris and the defence dominating in the Grey Cup – made for compelling drama, the details of which will be told and retold for generations.
And with that, the Heroes of Champions Way had completed their quest.
FYI: The 2010s
- The Bombers finished the decade with four consecutive seasons of double-digit win totals – a first since a similar run from 1984-87.
- The Bombers did enjoy some individual moments in the 2010s. Three Bombers players were named the CFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player – Jovon Johnson in 2011, Adam Bighill in 2018 and Willie Jefferson in 2019. As well, Chris Matthews was the top rookie in 2012, Andrew Harris was named the Most Outstanding Canadian in 2017, Stanley Bryant won back to back Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman awards in 2017 and 2018 and Justin Medlock was voted the Most Outstanding Special Teams Player in 2016.
- Winnipeg’s victory in the 2019 marked the first time a third-place team had captured the title since the Edmonton Eskimos in 2005.
- Andrew Harris has captured the last three CFL rushing titles, in 2017, 2018 and 2019 and, in the process, moved past Normie Kwong to become the all-time leader among Canadians in rushing yards.
- The decade has been good for several former Bombers all of whom were inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame – Bob Cameron and Elfrid Payton (2010), Danny McManus (2011), Tyrone Jones and Milt Stegall (2012), Miles Gorrell (2013), Charles Roberts (2014), James West and Doug Brown (2016), Geroy Simon (2017), Paul Brule (2018), Ernie Pitts and David Williams (2019).