Let's face it. There is not a coach in the CFL or any other pro league who will admit to making a blunder. Wally would be one of the very last along with that other successful coach Don Matthews to admit his choice was a poor one.
But that was last week and the challenges for this BC Lions team are ahead and not back. The question has arisen in the sports media if the Lion coach's blunder will lead to further sliding and eventually another lost season without a Grey Cup. Whether the loss in Regina is a momentum loser for the Lions or not remains to be seen but for sure it has give new life to the Riders and ensured that they are still considered a force in the West this year.
The BC players know that some of their better play was more evident in the pre-game melee than in the actual game but they also know they are a good enough group of players to win. They also know that their coaches choice of allowing them to win with a one punt shot was a choice that they didn't make and wouldn't have if asked to be a part of that decision. They weren't asked and won't be as coaching is not what players do best and in the heat of battle like that there is no time for a team meeting and a lot of consultation.
What Wally Buono could do but likely won't do as it doesn't befit his style is this.
Tell his team at practice this week that in retrospect he made the wrong call. He went for the quick win over trusting his offence to not lose the ball and move it closer for a FG or single from closer in. He can say that with Paul punting as he was and the wind to his back that it looked like a no-brainer and a low risk way to win. In retrospect it was a high risk play and he was wrong to ignore his offence and how guys on his team can and did step up just to tie the game. The coaches should have let the players play out the game and so it wouldn't have had to be better than a perfect kick. He could make a joke by saying that when he was a punter, it'd be a no brainer but today's athletes are like in his day. Guys would laugh. He could say, it's a lesson learned but it's past now. That was last week. We have got to focus now on this week. The tension in the team that might linger on is what a coach wants to avoid as if it is an undercurrent of discontent with a coaching decision, it can be bad down the stretch when every point in the standings counts and tension in the games builds.
What players want coaches to do is to acknowledge it when they blow it as the coaches make the players do when they err.
When coaches err and it is rare, it is always best to ensure the team understands that if faced with that same decision again, they won't be making that dumb mistake. This can re-set the tone for how the team is going to play for the balance of the season. It can be said that they are not going to be stupid and high risk but they are going to trust their players to do what is needed in situations like that should they come up again. It doesn't have to mirror Don Matthews aggression but it has to counter the message of fear of his team that the Lion tamer sent last week.
Football and especially offensive play is about tactics and execution. The best teams have an attitude that they don't care what their opponents know about them as they will simply execute better than their opponent can defend them. That is the winning culture you want your players to embrace but that comes first from the coaches.
Too much is made of this bad Wally play for good reason. Fans know from last year how quickly 11 and 0 can go to missing a Grey Cup opportunity. All slides begin with a loss so fans rightly think a loss might be the sign that the team is done. The Lions aren't but the tests from now to the end will be tougher than what has been given to them so far, despite the next opponent being Hamilton.