Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

If Blue are going to fire Mack, the sooner the better

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The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are considering firing Joe Mack. The question is all about the timing.

If CEO Garth Buchko comes to the determination he needs to clip Mack, he'll have to make a lot of moves in a short period of time.

Waiting until late January to pull the trigger on a new GM, like the club did the last time around, won't do. The best candidates are locked up by then. Plus, the first thing a new GM will want to do is reload his coaching staff and few are available in early February.

No, the Bombers, should they choose this course, cannot wait. They'll need to announce Mack's firing on the day the season ends, or sooner, to get this action in motion.

There is evidence Mack's fate is already sealed. He hasn't spent much time in Winnipeg of late, and took a powder on the Past-Presidents dinner. The Ghosts, as the past-presidents are known within the organization, like to have their say once a year and they wanted Mack to explain his plans.

He refused and it ruffled a lot of feathers.

Mack found it ludicrous that he should have to explain himself to people no longer involved with the organization. Right or wrong, his refusal speaks volumes. If he thought he had any chance of holding onto his gig, he would have been in there shmoozing like his life depended on it.

Buchko will need to decide what he wants in a GM. A glorified scout, with an assistant GM handling all the day-to-day duties? A GM/head coach like John Hufnagel? There are lots of ways to go and the quality of candidates will determine how the Bombers proceed.

How the first-year CEO handles the situation in the next while will put a major stamp on his tenure in the club's top chair.

Maybe the Bombers will decide to keep Mack. The board hired him and they will be reluctant to fire him for two reasons. One, they will be admitting a mistake -- which no one likes to do -- and secondly, it will be expensive.

Mack has two years left on his deal after this season at a rate around $250,000 per. So that's $500,000 out the window, plus what they owe former head coach Paul LaPolice for next season, which gets them in the neighbourhood of $750,000 for two guys no longer in their service.

Rightly so, the board will have to consider such costs before acting.

Assume the board will be split. It will be Buchko's job to get them in line with whatever decision he makes.

Let's suppose he comes to the determination Mack has to go. There's a good argument for this, as the team has not performed this season and has regressed for over a year.

Mack's overall record as GM is 18-28, which is damning enough, but a look deeper into the numbers shows that after breaking out to a 7-1 start last season, the club has gone 7-17 over 24 games. That's a lot of bad football over a long period of time. It can't go on.

Buchko will need to form a search team, likely with some people from outside the organization, and then he'll need to start assessing candidates.

Being in position to do so by Grey Cup week would be a major advantage. He could set up shop in a Toronto hotel room and have candidates moving in and out all week.

There will also be a sales job required. The Bombers' reputation around the CFL, and by extension the football, world is not good. The lure of the new stadium is an asset, but Buchko will need to convince quality candidates that taking the Bombers job isn't just an invitation to stain one's resumé.

For a long time, the Bombers have done things on the cheap. Buchko needs to convince the board that will no longer do -- that he'll need money to invest in football operations.

A top GM candidate will demand more than $300,000 per season and he'll want to know he's going to have a full complement of scouts and coaches, unlike the skeleton staff the Bombers have now.

Buchko has work to do if this is the road he chooses.

If he hasn't already started, he should get moving.

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 13, 2012 C1

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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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