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Decision on GM Mack can’t wait much longer

Blue have to move now

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 KEEP Joe Mack or dump Joe Mack.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are at a fork in the road.

While the decision is major, there is not a lot of time to spend on it.

Bombers CEO Garth Buchko must make his call on the embattled GM, present it to the board, and then quickly make an announcement.

Something he may or may not be ready to do right now.

"I cannot comment at this time," responded Buchko, to an email on Sunday asking if an announcement would come prior to the team’s final game this Saturday or after the season has ended.

Mack will want a firm declaration of his position made soon so he can begin building his team for next season. Or looking for new work.

If the club does plan changes, and that doesn’t appear to be the blueprint at this point, they’ll immediately need to put together a search team and begin conducting interviews.

They can’t wait. Either way.

Hiring a GM in January, such as the Bombers did with Mack in 2010, doesn’t work. It puts the new GM behind on a number of fronts, including free agency and hiring a coaching staff.

 And preventing Mack from moving forward on his plans would be just as destructive to the organization.

Any decision must be made now.

There are indications one has already been made. Sources say Mack has been told by Buchko he’ll be back and Mack has recommended that head coach Tim Burke be signed to a new contract.

Mack owns a 19-34 record and a .358 winning percentage as GM of the Bombers. But many in the organization believe this year was an anomaly due to a host of injuries. They believe Mack has put the right pieces in place and they only need a little more time to mature and flourish.

Burke is 3-6 as head coach of the Bombers.

A high-placed organizational source told me in the last two weeks Burke would be the coach next season and that the club’s remaining games had no impact on that decision. That position was reaffirmed prior to Winnipeg’s loss on Saturday to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

When I asked about Mack, the source didn’t have an answer. But Burke likely can’t return without Mack at the helm. So, it would seem, Buchko has made his decision.

The board of directors, however, are the wild card in this game. They can exert their will and steer Buchko in the direction they want to go.

"I will have the authority to hire and fire GMs," said Buchko, at the press conference to announce his hiring in January. "In consultation with the board, of course. It’s going to take me some time to learn the football business, the ins and outs of it. But that part doesn’t frighten me at all."

There’s been lots of talk suggesting the board is split on Mack. Firing him would be expensive — he’s owed about $500,000 for the rest of his contract — and the board would like continuity at the GM position.

But there are hawks among the board that view Mack as a failure and want change.

There’s another game remaining on the schedule but the real plays are being made high above the field.

Keep your eye on Joe Mack, folks. It’s all about him right now.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter:@garylawless

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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