September 4, 2015

By Gary Lawless


Cowardly cheapskates rule Bombers

Money and fear appear to stand in the way of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers doing what is best for the club.

Potential assistant GM candidate Duane Forde has made his expectations known to the club in terms of salary and authority and the Bombers are unlikely to meet either.

Forde wants more than $200,000 per year and a long-term contract as well as final say on the Canadian draft.

The board, at this juncture anyway, won't give CEO Garth Buchko the money to hire Forde and GM Joe Mack is unwilling to cede his authority on draft day.

Unless there is a change of thinking in Bomberland, the organization will likely promote from within, making special teams coach Kyle Walters its next assistant GM.

Not because Walters is the best man for the job but because it will cost less and keep Mack unchallenged in the decision-making process on personnel matters. The wrong decision for the wrong reasons.

Walters brings lots to the table. He's a hard worker and his background as both a former CIS player and coach as well as a CFL player and coach make him qualified for the position. He'll be a good hire.

But he won't be the best hire. That would be Forde.

The simple formula of having both Forde and Walters on the same staff working on Canadian content together makes Forde the superior move.

But there's much more than that. No offence to Kyle Walters, but he's sat in the draft room the past three years and been part of Mack's crew. His voice is not a fresh one, nor is it one that will challenge Mack.

The best leaders surround themselves with top people and welcome new ideas and challenging viewpoints.

Others prefer a yes chorus.

Adding a football mind like Forde's to the upper echelon of Winnipeg's football department can only be viewed as a positive from the outside. From the inside, however, Forde will no doubt be considered a threat.

Mack is on shaky footing regardless of any votes of confidence. A slow off-season followed by a poor start next season will undoubtedly lead to his dismissal. Having Forde situated just down the hall will make it all too easy for a quick change.

This past summer when the Bombers were on the verge of firing Mack, Forde was the man they wanted as their GM. They've spoken to him four times about this position. There's no question Buchko and the board appreciate his skill set and his character.

One CIS championship and two Grey Cups as a player, plus over a decade of hard work and networking to develop an unparalleled knowledge of Canadian talent.

Forde was standing on the sidelines during Grey Cup week fielding questions from CFL front-office personnel and media types about players available for this draft. His knowledge is encyclopedic. "That kid? He's good, but he had shoulder surgery last fall. I wouldn't take him in the first. That linebacker? Athletic, but his football sense is so-so." And on and on.

Forde's demands are steep. But so is Winnipeg's ask. Forde has a high profile and well-paying job with TSN. No one should expect him to take a paycut to join the Bombers.

As for final say on the draft floor, that's not so unusual. GMs in most professional leagues rely on the opinions of their scouts and personnel men to guide those decisions. If Forde, or whoever the Bombers hire, is going to have the responsibility of scouting and building the Bombers' book on Canadian content, he should have the say. It's his reputation on the line.

Winnipeg has also indicated it wants a full-time presence in Winnipeg. An upper-management type that can stand up and speak for the organization and be involved in the community. Forde would fill all those requirements.

The Bombers have said they want to make an announcement regarding a new assistant GM in short order.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats sources say Forde is in consideration for a front-office position there, and the new Ottawa franchise has reportedly shown interest as well.

If Winnipeg was going to hire Forde, a deal would either be done or imminent. Neither of those statements can be said to be true.

Money and fear will rule the day in Bomberland. Not the acquisition of talent and the development of a challenging work environment.

Once again, the wrong decision for the wrong reasons. Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 28, 2012 C3

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