Some players-turned-analysts are known for carrying playing biases into their new jobs. That isn't necessarily bad, as long as they don't take them too seriously, but it's still refreshing to see an analyst come out and say what he really thinks about the recent actions of the team he used to play for. Legendary former Winnipeg Blue Bombers receiver and current CFL on TSN panelist Milt Stegall (seen at right in 2008 when he broke Allen Pitts' CFL career receiving yardage record) did just that this week, sounding off to the Winnipeg Sun's Paul Friesen about the team's off-season moves and current head coach Paul LaPolice. Here are some of the highlights:
— On the Steven Jyles trade: Buck Pierce is a great quarterback," Stegall began. "But if he goes down... they might be calling back Kenny Ploen. Because I don't even know what's behind him. They have, what's his name, Brink?
"If Buck is healthy, they have a chance. If he's not, I don't believe they have a chance."
— On receivers Brock Ralph and Aaron Hargreaves: "I love those two guys. But they're not starters. Those guys aren't legit starters, right now. Brock Ralph, he's maybe out the door."
— On Paul LaPolice's tenure as a rookie head coach: "He didn't do well," Stegall said. "He didn't do as well as I thought he was going to do. He better make it happen this year. If not, everybody's gone. Winnipeg is just cleaning house. They've got a new stadium coming, there's possibly an NHL team coming. They've got to get it going."
Obviously, there are perils to going too far in this direction and criticizing just for the sake of criticism, or throwing out criticisms just to try and prove your objectivity. Stegall's comments aren't all that unreasonable, though, and they seem more like thoughtful analysis than bashing a franchise for the sake of going after it. To me, that suggests that he's growing into his role as a CFL analyst.
However, the problem with criticizing your old team is some fans and executives see it as burning bridges. One case in point is ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit, who makes no secret of his support for alma mater Ohio State, but was still first driven to move out of the state and then driven off Twitter by Buckeyes' fans who thought he wasn't being sufficiently supportive of the program. Hopefully, the same won't happen to Stegall. Fans and team executives need to recognize that his current job is to offer the best analysis he can, and objectivity may help with that. That doesn't meant that he's disowning the Bombers or trying to distance himself from his time with them; it's just a recognition that he's on to a new job, and one where it may not always be helpful to bleed blue and gold.