Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Best Season/Worst Season

Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Best Season/Worst Season
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Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Best Season/Worst Season

Welcome to the latest in an occasional series looking at the best and worst seasons for each of the nine CFL teams. We started with the BC Lions. Then followed that up with the Ottawa RedBlacksMontreal AlouettesCalgary Stampeders, & the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

This time we are heading back west to take a look at the biggest single season ups and downs for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

But first some ground rules. Some of the teams have been around long enough to post completely winless seasons. For example, the Toronto Argonauts went 0-6 in 1898. While football was played as far back as 1869 in Hamilton.

But is that really a fair comparison? I would say not, as it was a different era with much different teams, games and leagues. So we will be looking at the ‘modern’ era only. Which will also allow us to compare the best and worst seasons of all of the teams over the same time frame.

You might think the modern era should begin in the post CFL era from 1958 to present day. However, whilst the CFL may have had responsibility for the Grey Cup since 1958, we should note that Wikipedia suggests that “1954 is reckoned as the start of the modern era of Canadian football, in which the Grey Cup has been exclusively contested by professional teams”.

So based on that we will take 1954 as our starting point for our best/worst season comparisons. Which isn’t too far, as we shall see, from arguably the best period in Blue Bombers history

Best Season – 1958

In terms of regular season winning percentage we could have gone for 1960 here. After all, that year the Winnipeg Blue Bombers went 14-2 (.875). Or perhaps last year when they joined the 15 win teams. And they posted a 15-3 record (.833). We could even stretch it to 1939 when they went 10-2 (.833) and won the Grey Cup.

But, I would argue against the first two. Sure they were spectacular regular season efforts. But any season you walk away champion should trump a great regular season surely. Which 1939 does. However that fits outside the ‘modern era’ time frame we set above.

So, for me, the best ‘modern era’ season is one that combines a great season with a Grey Cup win. And the best of those seasons is 1958. A 13-3 record (.813) was converted into a Grey Cup title with a 35-28 win over Hamilton.

The previous year they had lost to Hamilton in the Grey Cup, but this time around got their revenge and took home their first title since 1941.

Winnipeg started the season 3-2. But after an 11-3 defeat at Calgary they reeled off seven consecutive winning games and won ten of the final eleven contests of the season. They were a team built on a solid defensive foundation and allowing for rounding had an average game score of 23-11 in their favour across the season.

The success of the D can be seen in the annual awards. On the O running back Leo Lewis was named to the West All-Star team, while on the D defensive tackle Buddy tinsley, defensive end Herb Gray, middle guard Steve Patrick, and libebackers Gord Rowland and David Burkholder were named to the West All-Star team.

What Came next?

This win kicked off a dynastic era for the Blue Bombers. The 1958 season was followed by a 12-4 1959 season that also delivered a Grey Cup title. They went 25-7 over those two seasons and delivered two titles.

As in 2022 they fell short of a threepeat, but they were back again in 1961 & 1962 converting 13-3 and 11-5 seasons respectiely into another two Grey Cup wins. They went 26-8 over those two seasons and delivered two further titles.

On every occasion they were squared off with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. In fact they made 5 finals in 6 years, and every time faced Hamilton.

Worst Season – 1964

If it hadn’t been for a 14-2 1960 Blue Bombers team losing a 3 game Western Semi-Final series to Edmonton they could have appeared in 6 straight Grey Cups. As we have seen though they made four winning Grey Cup appearances in five years. Just two seasons removed from the last of those seasons however came the calamity of a 1-14-1 season in 1964. A spectacular topple from the pinnacle for the Blue Bombers and their fans.

For the 1964 season, head Coach Bud Grant took on added responsibilities and to begin with it did not work well.

During the season the Blue Bombers actually started out with a 1-1-1 record following a 10-10 tie with BC, a 39-27 loss to Saskatchewan and a 37-7 win over Edmonton. However following that win over Edmonton they lost 13 consecutive games to see out the season. Over that run they lost by 3 points three times and by a single point twice. For such a recent champion they looked to have lost their clutch gene. Allowing for rounding they averaged a 17-25 score in each game played that season.

Even in the darkest of seasons you can usually find some light. For Winnipeg that came from Billy Cooper being named the best Canadian Rookie in the West. And from the Lincoln Locomotive – Leo lewis rushing for 845 yards on a 114 carries (7.4 yards per carry) and being named a West All-Star alongside offensive lineman Frank Rigney and defensive end Bill Whisler.

Lewis held the Bombers career rushing record (8,891 yards) for 41 years from his retirement in 1966 until it was broken by Charles Roberts in 2007. 

What came next?

The turnaround was as swift as the fall from grace. The very next season (1965) they went a healthy 11-5 and contested the Grey Cup, losing 22-16 to Hamilton. Clearly Grant had sorted out his workload as he was named Coach of the Year.

Grant would see out a final season in Winnipeg overseeing an 8-7-1 club in 1966 before heading south to coach the Vikings in the NFL.

Following their Grey Cup appearance in 1965, the Blue Bombers managed one first placed finish in their Division between 1966 and 1987. From 1966-1979 they posted an 88-130-6 record. They would have wait for Eighties however to see a greater upswing in their fortunes.

Banner Image the Winnipeg bench during the 1962 Grey Cup. Image from

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