Brown Clears the Air

Insightful piece,

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In lieu of everything that has transpired in what may have been the most tumultuous week in professional football in recent history, I feel there are some unanswered questions that need to be addressed by those of us who spent a season employed in this latest regime.

"ö Why do players wait until their coach is fired before going public and piling on with their grievances?

"ö We don't wait; you just don't hear about it when we address it in-house during the season. A minimum of three players (not including Derek Armstrong or Barrin Simpson) felt it necessary to escalate their concerns through the proper channels this season. The situations were mediated and I imagine the outcomes were similar to mine, wherein I was told to sit on it until such time when it was appropriate to evaluate and make decisions about what transpired during the entirety of the football season.

"ö Why would a player support the personnel moves their coach made with people like Derek Armstrong and Barrin Simpson if they were opposed to his philosophies?

"ö Every move or executive decision that was made this season was not contrary or condemnable, no matter how things may appear now. Derek was one of everybody's favourite players on the team for several years, but when an unexpected situation calls for you to not start a game because of an import, non-import ratio dilemma, you do not withdraw your services because your ego is bruised, and even more so when a player gets hurt in the game and needs your help. Releasing him was not a mistake, and was a decision contributed to at the time by a number of players and members of the coaching staff.

As for the Barrin Simpson conflict, whether it was a smart evaluation to suggest that he sit for a week or not, or be pulled back from the rotation is not the point here. The point is when a player asks to be traded and refuses to play going forward, he should not be in the locker-room, a sentiment even Barrin agreed with during the conflict. The locker- room is for Blue and Gold only; there is no room for grey. Once Barrin readjusted his scopes and addressed the team, he was welcomed back immediately.

"ö Why go along for the ride for an entire season if it becomes clear you don't believe or agree with the direction you're headed in?

"ö The best analogy I can come up with is it's like going to sea with a new captain. You learn your role, you buy into the system, and begin Iyour journey. You have a destination to reach, and if you start a mutiny halfway there, lord knows where you will end up.

If things start going off course and you go public with your unrest in the middle of a campaign, not only will you be viewed as a dissenter and troublemaker league-wide, you force the higher-ups to make a determination on your future with the club. I can count the number of times on one finger that a player has won the "who-loses-their-job game" when they go head to head with a coach, publicly or privately. He is your boss; you are his employee. You lose. We have all played for people we have not liked, but tolerated on the surface because we all had the same objectives in the end. This year, our playoff hopes came down to the last game of the year. It would have been incredibly stupid and selfish to sacrifice the chance to compete for a championship because some of us had issues with our leadership and wanted to air our dirty laundry in the middle of the season.

So you have to be very careful as a player when or if you pick your moments to be critical of a superior (logistically speaking) when you are actively playing football. When action has been taken in the off-season and players are asked to comment, those of us who have things to say comment freely.

"ö Should players ever really talk about a coach once their tenure has come to a close?

"ö It depends on whether you are of the opinion that things should always stay in-house or whether you want to know what really went on without all the window-dressing that is packaged for your dissemination during the year. This is the only time when you will really hear what the players feel and the only way we can vent and heal and move on without immediate dismissal. To this day, I remember what all my comments have been about the coaches that have led me during my time in Winnipeg.

For Dave Ritchie, who I went to a Grey Cup with and had all three of the most winning seasons in my nine years -- 14 & 4, 11 & 7 and 12 & 6 -- I spoke about what he did when he won coach of the year in 2001. He attributed it entirely to the players he coached. When Jim Daley was fired, I said his only failing in my eyes as a head coach was that he was probably too nice a guy to operate in that capacity in this unforgiving industry. When Doug Berry was fired, I spoke to how the executives of this franchise had an aversion to regression in the record books, since we went from 10 & 7 and a Grey Cup berth to 8 & 10 and a loss in the divisional semis. And when Coach Kelly got fired, I vented about all the hypocritical behaviours I felt I witnessed.

Hopefully, that gives you, the reader, a better understanding of why and how things go the way they do from the player perspective when the sky, seemingly, starts to fall.

Doug Brown, always a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 22, 2009 C4

The opinion Doug has of Kelly is I think very similar to many fans. Kelly's actions where oposite of just about every value he claimed to posess and impose on others. You can't lead men in to battle when you are that weak.

Doug pulls no punches…

I thought it was interesting that he still backed the way the Armstrong and Simpson issues were handled…