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TrueBlue4ever

The MBB All-Time Blue Bomber team: (A) Punt Returners

The MBB All-Time Blue Bomber team: (A) Punt Returners  

20 members have voted

This poll is closed to new votes
  1. 1. Who is the greatest punt returner in Blue Bomber history? (choose one)

    • Paul Bennett
      7
    • Tom Casey
      0
    • Kevin Fogg
      2
    • Fritz Hanson
      11
    • Henry Janzen
      0
    • Ron Latourelle
      0
    • Gord Rowland
      0
    • Doug Strong
      0

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  • Poll closed on 02/26/19 at 05:59 AM

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This poll will run a bit differently than the others. Today we will examine those who were primarily punt returners, and voting will last for one week, choosing one punt returner. Tomorrow I will put out the list of those who were primarily kick returners, again choosing only one, and the poll will run until next Tuesday. And on Wednesday, I will put out a third poll of those who were dual threat returners, allowing for 2 selections. Once the 4 winners in those 3 categories have been selected, we will have a vote-off from those 4 starting next Thursday and running until the following Sunday to determine the single best punt returner and the single best kick returner in club history.

Here are the punt returner bios:

All-star recognition for returners began in 1986

Special Teams Player of the Year first awarded in 1999

Order of stats: returns-yards-average-long-TD

 

Paul Bennett – 61 games in 4 seasons (1980-83), PR career: 264-2723-10.3-52-0, best: 97-890 (both 1983)-12.4 (1981), KR career: 15-310-20.7-31-0, best: 9-223-24.8 (all 1981), led CFL in punt return yards (1982, 83), led CFL in punt return average (1982), CFL Most Outstanding Canadian player (1983), CFL Hall of Fame, #2 club all-time in career punt return yards, #2 club all-time career punt return average

Tom Casey – 83 games in 6 seasons (1950-55), PR career: 147-1253-8.5-30-0, best: 51-427 (both 1953)-10.1 (1952), KR career: 28-705-25.2-85-1, best: 12 (1951)-343-38.1 (both 1952), led WIFU in punt return average (1952), CFL Hall of Fame, 2 Grey Cup appearances (1950, 53)

Kevin Fogg – 48 games in 3 seasons (2016-18), PR career: 200-2259-11.3-88-1, best: 80 (2018)-775 (2017)-14.2 (2016), KR career: 10-189-18.9-25-0, best: 6-112-18.7 (all 2016), MFG career: 5-224-44.8-110-1, best: 3-195-65.0 (all 2018), led CFL in punt return average (2016), single season club record for punt return average (14.2 in 2016), #1 club all-time in punt return average

Fritz Hanson – 8 seasons (1935-41, 45), no stats available, but here is a bio from CFLapedia: Hanson weighed only 145 pounds, but had incredible speed and elusiveness which earned him nicknames like "The Galloping Ghost," "The Golden Ghost," "Twinkle Toes" and the "Phantom Flash." Hanson joined the Blue Bombers in 1935 and helped lead Winnipeg to the first Grey Cup by a West team, upsetting the Hamilton Tigers 18-12.  Hanson would go on to play with Winnipeg until 1941 when World War II got in the way and Hanson joined the Canadian Army.  Hanson briefly returned to play for Winnipeg again in 1945, playing in at least one exhibition game before his Army duties forced him to retire for the season.  In the 7 years from 1935 to 1941, the Bombers went to the Grey Cup 6 times, missing only once in 1936.  Besides 1935, the Bombers and Hanson won two other Grey Cups in 1939 and 1941. That first win in 1935 was the big one though and while very few stats are available from that era, Hanson had 334 yards in kick returns that game including a 78 yard punt return for a touchdown. Hanson won West All-Stars (there were no Canadian All-Stars until 1962) in five straight years from 1937 to 1941. Canada’s Male athlete of the year (1939), CFL Hall of Fame, 6 Grey Cup appearances (1935, 37-41), 3-time Grey Cup champion (1935, 39, 41)

Henry Janzen – 103 games in 7 seasons (1959-65), PR career: 282-1755-6.2-53-0, best: 67-499-7.4 (all 1959), KR career: 23-561-24.4-39-0, best: 20-494-24.7 (all 1962), led CFL in punt return yards (1959, 61), 4 Grey Cup appearances (1959, 61, 62, 65), 3-time Grey Cup champion (1959, 61, 62)

Ron Latourelle – 127 games in 10 seasons (1955-64), PR career: 471-2373-5.0-20-0, best: 80-467 (both 1958)-6.3 (1957), KR career: 16-334-20.9-34-0, best: 10-201 (both 1956)-20.4 (1957), 5 Grey Cup appearances (1957-59, 61, 62), 4-time Grey Cup champion (1958, 59, 61, 62), #4 club all-time in career punt return yards, #1 club all-time career punt returns

Gord Rowland – 163 games in 11 seasons (1954-64), PR career: 324-2395-7.4-52-0, best: 56-478-8.5 (all 1958), KR career: 30-682-22.7-50-0, best: 13-257 (both 1954)-25.0 (1956), 5 Grey Cup appearances (1957-59, 61, 62), 4-time Grey Cup champion (1958, 59, 61, 62), #3 club all-time in career punt return yards, #2 club all-time career punt returns

Doug Strong – 67 games in 6 seasons (1969-74), PR career: 257-1430-5.6-25-0, best: 64 (1971)-410-7.3 (both 1970), KR career: 20-391-19.6-35-0, best: 12-232 (both 1970)-19.9 (1969)

Edited by TrueBlue4ever

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Here is my "one man's take", but this is a tough call. The Bombers have never had a superstar or multi-year dynamo like Gizmo Williams, Pinball Clemons, or Chad Owens. And when I put out the "Dual threat" list on Wednesday, it's entirely possible that one of the players on that list is better than the top choice here.

So here is my brief take on the candidates:

Strong - no real spectacular numbers, but the return game was not as refined as it is now, and he was dependable and sure-handed. Still, a career average of just 5.6 yards and no return ever longer than 25 yards was not amongst the best, even of his peers in that era, much less all time.

Janzen, Latourelle, Rowland - these 3 split the return duties during their time with the club in the 1950's-1960's, so none of them had the chance to stand out against the others or amass the big return yards that some other more modern players get to with the single returner system (even as late as the 1990's it was common to have two returners back for every punt, either each covering half the field, or one shallow and one deep). Of the 3, comparing apples to apples, although Latourelle had the most touches (all-time club leader), Rowland was more productive yardage and average-wise. But I would still rank all of them behind the other contenders.

Casey - Always the bridesmaid. Some very solid numbers for a guy I still want to find a place for on this all-time team, but again he will fall just short of others whose expertise in one area outshines Casey for that category. And yet it bears repeating once more that Casey is likely the greatest all-around athlete in club history. If he snuck through here I'd be quite pleased, but he'll still get a couple more polls to prove his worth.

Fogg - Some very big numbers in his 3 year tenure here. Was 4 holding/illegal blocking penalties away from CFL history in his first season, when he had a quartet of TDs called back due to penalties (and they were kind of chintzy calls - one holding call happened across the field away from his return and had no impact on the return, and two others were illegal block calls after he was already free and clear to the end zone). Despite the fouls still and a massive return average that year, but his shorter career span overvalues that first year's numbers and keeps him out of top spot for me.

Hanson - As has been pointed out, the rules prevented blocking on returns in his era, so what he achieved was something special. Caution - we have the legend of his one monster Grey Cup performance, but who can say if that translated into a stellar career of returns, or was just an exceptional game? I suspect the former is more accurate. He was the first true Bomber legend and made the 75th anniversary team, so if we want to honour the entire history of the club and not just a sampling of the 1960's crew mixed with a post-1980's squad, a vote for him would be most appropriate here and well deserved.

Bennett - Believe it or not, before Gizmo Williams revolutionized the punt return game, Paul Bennett was considered by many the greatest punt returner in CFL history. He set the all-time CFL record for career punt return yardage (since smashed by the Giz) as a Bomber (it was said he set it 10 yards at a time, as he was not known for the big game breaker, but rather just never dropped a punt, put his head down, and went north-south on every return for positive yardage). Tough to compare across eras, but during his tenure in the early 1980's he was the best in the business. 

Any of the last 4 could make a case here, but for me it comes down to Bennett or Hanson, mindful that the dual threat choices could bump either of them. I see myself leaning towards Hanson, because he was a superstar who put the Bombers on the map, we should have representation from all of the Bomber history and not just the last 40 years, and Bennett already has a spot on this squad as a safety.

 

 

Edited by TrueBlue4ever

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Back when Rowland and Latourelle were playing blocking wasn't allowed on punt returns, so their averages and yardages couldn't match todays returners.  Can't remember for sure when blocking was first allowed, but I think it was the mid 70's.

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30 minutes ago, Jpan85 said:

Best pure returner was AJ III if he would of not gone to NFL he would have a lot of records for the franchise 

came back through 2 or 3 catastrophic knee injuries and still looked dangerous. If his body held up in the nfl he would have had a terrific career down south. Too bad. 

Kinda sad the state of our returners in the last 30 years or so. 

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9 hours ago, baxter said:

Back when Rowland and Latourelle were playing blocking wasn't allowed on punt returns, so their averages and yardages couldn't match todays returners.  Can't remember for sure when blocking was first allowed, but I think it was the mid 70's.

Around 1975. Call it The Ordinary Superstar Rule. Same with Doug Strong. He had no blocking either when he played. He never dropped anything punted at him either.

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14 minutes ago, Bigblue204 said:

Jovon was clutch in his time. Always came up with the big returns when the team needed it. 

October 22, 2011.....critical East Division showdown with Als that would essentially decide 1st in the East. Late in the game and needing a score, Jovon returned one to just past midfield to set up Buck and the offense with great field position. I'll never forget it...

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16 hours ago, bigg jay said:

Fogg should be in the dual threat category, imo.

Fogg only had 10 kick returns in his whole career, compared to 200 punt returns, so too great a disparity and too few kick returns to be placed in the "dual threat" category, despite some skill as a missed field goal returner. He really was a punt specialist who did spot duty on kick returns, at least when compared to other "dual threat" returners. At least that's the way I have constructed the polls - not to discredit his talent. I imagine he would have been a big weapon on kick returns, but the coaches never saw fit to use him in that role, for some reason. 

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13 hours ago, SpeedFlex27 said:

Around 1975. Call it The Ordinary Superstar Rule. Same with Doug Strong. He had no blocking either when he played. He never dropped anything punted at him either.

Very valid points. Which is why it is important to consider the era and compare these returners to their peers who played at the same time on other teams, as well as against their competition in the poll. That's why Bennett, with no blinding speed like today's burners, rates so high. He was steady and sure-handed, and was the best returner in the game hands down before Gizmo arrived. But that role has evolved too and become a legitimate weapon like never before.

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Kick returners list is up in a separate thread, but this poll stays open until next Monday, so keep the votes coming. And the dual threat list will be up later today in yet another separate poll.

And just to clarify the way I will handle this voting poll:

The winner of this poll will move on to the run-off poll. The winner of the kick return poll likewise. In the dual threat poll, I will ask voters to choose the top two, but will stress that you consider who on that list may have been the best punt returner and who was the best kick returner from that group as your 2 selections (if you feel the same player was both, then choose a runner-up in that poll anyway). Teams have really specialized recently and used different players for those different returns, so I don't want to exclude anyone with a generic "returner" category. But you can certainly consider that player's overall ability in both areas in deciding how good they were in each area.

Once I have those top 2 choices, I will re-submit a poll for both categories, and put the punt return winner head-to-head-to-head with the 2 dual threat selections, and ask who of those 3 is truly the best punt returner, and will likewise put the kick return winner against those same 2 dual threat selections for the ultimate kick return champion. So you will re-vote based on choosing one of three in each category.  It hopefully will all make sense when you see the poll.

And keep the discussion going, all opinions are valued and add to the debate!

Edited by TrueBlue4ever

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2 hours ago, TrueBlue4ever said:

Very valid points. Which is why it is important to consider the era and compare these returners to their peers who played at the same time on other teams, as well as against their competition in the poll. That's why Bennett, with no blinding speed like today's burners, rates so high. He was steady and sure-handed, and was the best returner in the game hands down before Gizmo arrived. But that role has evolved too and become a legitimate weapon like never before.

Paul Bennett was smart. He could read his blockers. He wasn't lightning quick so he let his blockers set things up for him. He just ran to daylight.

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