If he wasn't laughing, he'd have probably been crying.
So hats off to embattled Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke, who still had his sense of humour on Sunday as his 3-15 team unceremoniously packed the contents of their lockers into garbage bags and left Investors Group Field, many of them for the last time.
Holding what will in all likelihood be his last news conference as the Bombers field boss, Burke was asked by reporters Sunday morning what path the club's front office should take to turn the fortunes of a team that's missed the playoffs four times in the last five years.
"I vote for stability," Burke said with a grin.
It was funny, of course, because Burke knows -- and so does everyone else -- that stability is exactly the opposite of what's going to happen this winter to a team, that with a 37-7 loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at IGF on Saturday, tied the franchise mark for the worst record in an 18-game season.
Heads are going to roll, likely beginning with Burke's in the coming weeks. And while he's kept his chin up the last few weeks and steadfastly insisted it's business as usual for him as long as the Bombers are continuing to pay him, he's heard the talk and so took a moment at the end of his news conference on Sunday to say what sounded a lot like "Goodbye."
"Hey, if things don't work out for me, I just want to thank you guys for being fair," Burke told reporters. "I enjoyed our repartee -- repartee, is that how you say it? You guys are all really professional -- guys meaning gals too. You guys have all been really professional and treated me really well, so I thank you for that."
While his days are likely numbered, nothing is going to happen this week for Burke. Sources have indicated the club is determined to follow a sequence that will first see Wade Miller get the acting tag lifted from his job as CEO, followed shortly afterward by the naming of a new GM, which will in all likelihood be acting-GM Kyle Walters.
Only once all that's done, a process expected to take at least a few more weeks, will Burke learn his fate. In the meantime, he and his staff will do the important work of breaking down individual player performances from this season and filing reports.
That work will be important for whoever becomes the new Bombers GM and head coach. With an expansion draft coming up in mid-December, there isn't going to be much time for whoever takes over to figure out who to protect from the new Ottawa franchise.
Plus, with at least 22 Bombers set to become free agents this winter, someone has to do the grunt work necessary to begin making decisions on who to pursue, who to let go and who to prioritize and in what order.
Burke said he's drawing on his inner zen amidst all the tumult right now. "Like I said before, I'm just kind of taking life one day at a time. I'm not really going to worry about what's going to come or what's not going to come."
While lots went wrong this year, Burke said the team's work ethic, off-field discipline and compete-level were all things that went right.
"I think those are really good building blocks for the future. I think that's a good foundation."
Burke also noted that while change is in the air for the Bombers, it's the CFL teams that are the most stable that are still playing this season. "If you look at the teams that are most successful, they're the most stable. If you look at Calgary, they're a very stable outfit. B.C. -- very stable. Through the years, Montreal has been very stable. And it usually starts at the very top."
Burke said the Bombers need to improve their U.S. scouting, something he says has already begun to happen. And he said trades and free-agent signings -- almost non-existent during the Joe Mack era -- will be a must.
"Certainly we're going to have to improve certain talent areas on our team. And that's going to take awhile, that's not going to happen overnight," said Burke. "We have some holes to fill and we need to get better...
"It's not going to be a one-year fix. It's going to take more than that. It's going to take two or three years to get to the level where everyone in the organization and the city and province is going to be happy."
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