In 2011, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers had a chance to write a legendary chapter in their team’s history. The franchise was one win away from ending a twenty year title drought.
They were led by the fun to watch ‘Swaggerville’ defence, who led them to a 7-1 record in the first half of the season. That nickname got a large amount of attention. The Mayor, Odell Willis, and CEO (and former Mayor) Jovon Johnson guided the Bombers to a first place finish and held Hamilton to three points in the East Final.
But it wasn’t meant to be. Winnipeg lost to the B.C. Lions in the Grey Cup (and lost both games to the Riders. Almost just as bad) which was followed by four straight playoff misses. Fast forward to 2019, and the Bombers are starting to get some of that Swaggerville look back. Does this year’s squad have any similarities to that 2011 team? It may be a little too early, but let’s take a look:
2019: Matt Nichols.
2011: Buck Pierce.
Two quarterbacks with an injury past, but two quarterbacks that are also tough as nails. Both would stand in the pocket and take a shot if it meant completing the big pass.
Buck was great when he was healthy, and he’s proving his knowledge of the game as a coach right now. The guys seemed to really like playing him. He was always kind of on the fringe of those top three or four quarterbacks in the league, a lot like Matt Nichols.
2019: Andrew Harris.
2011: Fred Reid and Chris Garrett.
Not a lot of similarities with the backs on this team. Harris carries the load on this team, while in 2011 the team went with a one-two punch due to injuries.
2019: Darvin Adams, Nic Demski, Chris Matthews, Lucky Whitehead, Drew Wolitarsky.
2011: Terrence Edwards, Greg Carr, Corey Watson, Clarence Denmark, Kito Poblah.
If Whitehead keeps playing as he did in Week 2, he could have a very similar season to Clarence Denmark’s season in 2011. Watson was a young Canadian receiver making strides that year; Demski isn’t quite as young as him… but close enough.
Both teams possess a solid, reliable number one receivers (Adams now and Edwards previously) and both teams had a sneaky X-factor (Wolitarsky now and Carr previously). Not a lot of super close similarities, but definitely a few.
2019: Stanley Bryant Jr., Geoff Gray, Michael Couture, Cody Speller, Jermarcus Hardrick.
2011: Andre Douglas, Brendon LaBatte, Obby Khan, Steve Morley, Glenn January.
Other than at centre (2011 had a veteran centre in Obby Kahn), The offesnive lines are pretty similar. Both have a first round, high-profile Canadian guard (Gray now andLaBatte previously). Both have veteran tackles, and both are very athletic groups.
2019: Willie Jefferson, Jackson Jeffcoat, Craig Roh, Jake Thomas, Drake Nevis.
2011: Odell Willis, Doug Brown, Jason Vega, Bryant Turner, Kenny Mainor.
Willis and Jefferson are both the kind of defensive ends that can wreck a game. At the time, Willis was considered one of the CFL’s best young rushers. His start to that 2011 season was ridiculous.
Jefferson has a little bit of a different body type but has the same impact as Odell. Thomas and Roh aren’t quite on the same level as Doug Brown, but Vega and Jeffcoat are both young, promising Internationals.
The 2011 defensive line was the heart of that Swaggerville team. The secondary started their nickname a few years before, but the defensive line was the dominant unit that made it popular. The 2019 version definitely has the potential to do the same
2019: Adam Bighill, Kyrie Wilson, Anthony Gaitor, Jesse Briggs.
2011: Joe Lobendahn, Marcellus Bowman, Clint Kent, Henoc Muamba, Pierre-Luc Labbe.
Not many similarities here, so let’s just move on
2019: Winston Rose, Marcus Sayles, Brandon Alexander, Chandler Fenner, Jeff Hecht.
2011: Jovon Johnson, Jonathan Hefney, Alex Suber, Bandon Stewart, Ian Logan.
Johnson started Swaggerville before 2011. He was the creator, and he led that very talented group. Number two was a vacuum out there, having eight interceptions on the year being as shut down as it gets that season.
This 2019 team doesn’t have a true star corner like him. They both have a veteran Canadian safety, but that might be it. It’s too early to tell though. Maybe Sayles turns into a Hefney type of player.
Again, the Bombers are only 3-0 and it’s probably silly to look ahead already. But Winnipeg hasn’t started a season as the clear cut number one in the west in since that 2011 season. Bomber fans love to dream is this is finally their season. That dream hasn’t been this strong in a long time.
Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images