The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have made official what seemed to be a given for weeks, if not months – Tim Burke will not return as head coach in 2014.
But in making the announcement Wednesday president and CEO Wade Miller made no secret of his hope the club’s new general manager and new head coach would consider keeping the veteran Burke around as the club’s defensive coordinator.
"I think we’d be lucky as an organization to have Tim back as a defensive coordinator," said Miller at a press conference. " That’s a decision that the new head coach and general manager will make, but that is something that Tim and I discussed. He has a record of going to the Grey Cup four years in a row as a defensive coordinator and winning two of those. So, that is something that is definitely open. (Burke) would like to meet to the new head coach and, obviously, the new head coach has got to be comfortable with that. There’s nothing in place, but I think that goes to the character of who Tim Burke is and I look forward to whoever our new head coach and general manager is going to be in meeting with him and seeing if there is a role and if it’s a good fit."
Burke was not available for comment, but did state in the club’s press release: "I’ve really enjoyed my time in Winnipeg and am grateful for the opportunity this franchise gave me. The fan support in this city and province is just really remarkable and it is one of the greatest things I can take away from this experience in Winnipeg."
A respected defensive co-ordinator for years in the CFL, Burke became the interim head coach of the team on Aug. 25, 2012, replacing Paul LaPolice. The Bombers were 4-6 under Burke to finish 2012 and showed enough improvement for him to be introduced as the head coach on Nov. 1, 2012.
But the 2013 was nothing short of a disaster, with GM Joe Mack, president Garth Buchko and offensive coordinator Gary Crowton all fired during the summer en route to a 3-15 nightmare. Burke attempted to keep the mess from completely disintegrating, but the club finished 3-15 and his record as the head coach was 7-21 over the year and a half he wore the big head set.
Miller said that after discussions with Burke the decision was made Tuesday to confirm he would not be the head coach in 2014.
"I didn’t feel it was appropriate to have Tim waiting for the next three or four or five weeks in determining what his future was with the organization," said Miller. "I believe it was the right step for the organization and to make sure that, typically a new general manager is going to want to hire his own person and I believe now we’ve set that path."
Miller confirmed that all the assistant coaches currently on staff will see their contracts expire this offseason.
Keeping Burke around as defensive boss would, of course, need to be green lighted by whoever steps in as the Bombers’ new coach. Several names have been linked to the Bomber opening and will continue to heat up now that Burke’s dismissal has been made official. Among the candidates most-often mentioned are Calgary Stampeders offensive co-ordinator Dave Dickenson, Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback coach Khari Jones – a Bomber hall of famer – along with Toronto Argonauts assistant head coach/defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones.
Khari Jones is the name currently gaining the most traction, seeing as he is a former teammate and business partner with Miller and was a popular member of the club during his days as their quarterback.
Meanwhile, sources tell The Free Press that the Bombers have removed Dickenson from their potential wish list as he has deep connections to Calgary and has no interest in leaving the Stampeders’ organization.
Miller said he wanted the new head coach to "bring an attitude, bring leadership and bring a vision of where we need to go" along with the general manager.
As for the search for a new GM – Kyle Walters still has the ‘acting’ title despite the belief he will get the job – Miller said he was "working down that timeline now" and a decision would be made in the next two to four weeks.