Are the Blue Bombers on The Cusp Of A True Dyansty?
By Chris Lawton
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are making their fourth straight Grey Cup appearance. And, while they may have come up short last year, they have the chance to take a third title in four seasons having won in 2019 and 2021. Which has sparked the debate – is this a Dynastic team?
The question is, what constitutes a Dynasty? In the CFL, like other sports leagues you would want to see consistent winning with postseason and championship success over time. A team can’t have postseason success without lifting the Grey Cup and claim they are a dynasty. For example, the Montreal Alouettes were extremely successful from 2000-2008 making six Grey Cup appearances in nine years. But they could not be considered a Dynasty with jut one title. Winning it all in 2009 and 2010 completely altered the narrative for that team.
But how long a period does sustained success have to cover? In the 1960s Winnipeg won four titles in five years. Would we define that as Dynastic? I say yes. In fact for the purposes of definition here, let us say that a team has to win three titles in a five year span to be considered Dynastic. That being the case then Winnipeg does have the opportunity to become the latest CFL Dynasty. Who will they be joining if they achieve that? Let’s look.
The Grey Cup has a long history. The coming matchup is the 110th edition after all. Which means that things have changed somewhat down the years. This includes having a pre and post CFL era. Because of this you might think the pre CFL era from 1909-57, and the post CFL era from 1958 to present day would be the most natural split.
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, because of this pre and post professional split that is how I intend to split the Grey Cup Dynasties. For the purposes of this article, we will be looking at the fully professional era of 1954 to the present day.
A quick shout out to the pre professional era Dynasties based on our definition (3 titles within a 5-year span):
University of Toronto Varsity Blues 1909-1911 – 3 consecutive titles.
Queen’s University 1922-1924 – 3 consecutive titles.
Toronto Argonauts 1945 -1952 – 5 titles in 8 years including 3 consecutive titles from 1945-1947.
Which leads us nicely into the start of the modern/professional era in 1954 -and the teams that have had Dynastic claims there (by our definition)…
Edmonton Eskimos: 1954-56
3 consecutive victories.
Points for 110. Points against 71. Average winning margin: 37-24 (allowing for rounding).
36-12 over 3 seasons.
Largest Grey Cup Crowd: 39,417
Largest margin of victory 50-27 in the 44th Grey Cup
All three of Edmonton’s wins setting up their first Grey Cup Dynasty would come against the Montreal Alouettes.
Edmonton had a dominant team in the early 1950’s. They were not far removed from a 4-10 inaugural season (1949). But Edmonton would go an impressive 71-24-1 run between 1952 and 1957. That would include 4 Grey Cup appearances (they were runners up in 1952 as well as recording these wins).
Winnipeg Blue Bombers: 1958-62
4 victories in 5 years.
Points for 105. Points against 76. Average winning margin: 26-19 (allowing for rounding).
75-21 over 5 seasons with 4 Grey Cup appearances.
Largest Grey Cup Crowd: 36,592
Largest margin of victory 21-7 in the 47th Grey Cup
From 1957 to 1962 the Blue Bombers were on a tear in the CFL. Led by Head Coach Bud Grant they recorded a 75-21 regular season run. Which translated into 5 Grey Cup appearances (they were runners up in 1957) and four wins.
If it hadn’t been for a 14-2 1960 Blue Bombers team losing a 3 game Western Semi-Final to Edmonton, they could have appeared in 5 straight Grey Cups. This team made four winning Grey Cup appearances in five years. 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.
Edmonton Eskimos: 1973-82
5 consecutive victories, 5 Grey Cup appearances in 6 years.
Points for 143. Points against 71. Average winning margin: 29-14 (allowing for rounding).
60-15-5 over the Grey Cup winning seasons. 70-22-5 over 6 seasons.
Largest Grey Cup Crowd: 65,113
Largest margin of victory 48-10 in the 68th Grey Cup
When talking about Grey Cup Dynasties this is the big one. Five consecutive Grey Cup wins is an incredible feat.
The 1970’s had been a good time to be a football fan in Edmonton. During the decade, the then named Esks had gone 97-55-8. That had led to six Grey Cup appearances and three wins. That success overlapped into the Early 1980’s with two more titles in an unprecedented run of five.
The real question here is how far back do you count as one overarching Dynasty? People always talk about the five straight titles, and rightly so, it is unmatched. But this team dating from 1973 to 1982 went on an incredible 110-41-9 run that delivered nine first place finishes in the West, 10 straight West Finals, nine Grey Cup appearances in ten years and six championships. It is an incredible record of sustained success.
They would go on to appear in the CFL post season every year until 2005. That run would see another 8 Grey Cup appearances, and four further title wins. But the biggest run of success was from 1977-1982. The team would be dominant going 70-22-5 and converting that into six straight Grey Cup appearances.
Is Winnipeg The Next True Dynasty?
Toronto would be hugely dominant going 30-6 and winning back-to-back titles in 1996 and 1997, while as we have seen, Montreal won in 2009 and 2010. But were either a true CFL Dynasty under our definition? Probably not. The Als came closest but perhaps it is best to say they wee an Eastern title Dynasty team. While Toronto lacked the sustained success for this conversation.
Now though, Winnipeg has a real chance of joining this exalted modern/pro-era group. They could be about to write themselves into the history books and CFL lore. The Alouettes may yet to have something to say about that. As ever it will be fun seeing how it all plays out. Check it out from 11PM this coming Sunday on CFL+.
Feature Image Credit: Frank Gunn/Canadian Press
Chris originally started following the NFL with the ‘first wave’ of fans when it was shown on Channel 4 in the 1980’s. He has been a keen supporter of the Miami Dolphins since 1983. Chris first encountered the CFL in 2016 and instantly fell in love with the Canadian game. He has been writing about the CFL 2017. Chris has a degree in history, postgraduate degree in librarianship and can be found on twitter as @CFLfanUK