CFL fans know Bombers defensive lineman Doug Brown is one of the best at his position and has been for a while. Brown writes a weekly column for the Winnipeg Free Press. He discussed the imminent naming of Greg Marshall as Riders head coach and as you will see, he believes the Riders are getting a good man to replace Ken Miller.
When you look at the fact that I have played for six different defensive co-ordinators in the 10 years I have been in Winnipeg, it makes you wonder whether musical chairs is not just a kindergarten game for kids.
I have been coached by Mike Gorton, Rod Rust, Jim Daley, Greg Marshall, Mark Nelson and Kavis Reed. Two of them are no longer coaching in the CFL (Gorton and Rust), one of them doesn't coach defence anymore (Daley), and one is now a position coach (Nelson). One has been promoted to the head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos (Reed) and it was reported that the remaining co-ordinator (Marshall) is due to be handed the reigns in Saskatchewan in short order.
While from afar it may seem that I have been taking defensive crash courses on a nearly yearly basis due to this turnover and that consistency and continuity are ideas that have escaped the defensive idiom in Winnipeg for over a decade now, I actually have benefited from being exposed to so many different systems and ideologies. Whether your co-ordinator was the worst or the first in your mind there are things to be taken from each one of them, and sage bits of advice and wisdom you can carry with you going forward throughout your career.
Through all of these co-ordinators of different calling and creeds though, one of them had a profound impact on my career and I am satisfied to see that he is finally getting his due.
When Greg Marshall came to Winnipeg in 2006 for what would be the first of his three year stint -- second only in length to Mike Gorton -- I went into his office and chatted amicably with him for around 45 minutes. We got along great but after my initial consultation, he threw me for a loop.
Up to that point, in my career as a defensive lineman in the NFL and CFL, I had become very specialized. I played on the right side explicitly and alternated between the one and three technique on the right depending on the strength of the defence. But Greg didn't care what I had done before or where I wanted to play. In fact he came into our first defensive meeting and I almost thought he was talking specifically to me. He told us he didn't care who we thought we were, he wasn't interested whether we wanted to remain left or right tackles or strong side or boundary side defensive ends. He was going to move us around and place us where he felt we could be most successful and that was all there was to it. He took stock of my abilities and determined that I would be best utilized in his defence as a full-time nose tackle playing on the left and right side and even head-up on the centre. And the rest is history.
At the time I thought he was power-tripping the defence and flexing his muscle to show us who was boss. But by the end of his three years here I more than understood that if you trusted him and bought into his system without reservation, there was no way to escape success as an individual.
One other thing we learned about coach Marshall was not only did he hold you accountable and make you trust his football intuition, but he was not a coach to be trifled with or disrespected.
After a miserable game against Calgary in Calgary in 2006, Ron Warner, who was one of our better and more explosive players that year, was being justifiably criticized for his lack of effort on a number of run plays. Ron took exception to this, stood up in the meeting room and fired a verbal volley at Marshall. Greg stood right up with him and did not hesitate for a second with this younger, stronger, volatile player, and calmly backed him down and explained how things were going to be without missing a beat. Granted, he had defensive line coach Richard Harris as his sergeant at arms, but it wouldn't have mattered. The control he wielded over that room and his players and his innate authoritative nature made him a coach that many of us realized was destined for great things.
Those of you who are wondering what he will bring to the canvas in Saskatchewan, know this: In spite of all the unknowns that factor into the predictors of success or failure with a first-time head coach, trust me when I tell you that the team will, at the very least, be one highly motivated and disciplined unit now that he has been given an opportunity to lead an entire unit and not just a defence.