GUELPH, ONT. — Tim Burke’s no dummy — he knew the question was coming and he’d decided how to answer before it was asked Saturday in the wake of a 37-14 Winnipeg Blue Bombers loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Burke was asked if he fears for the security of his job as the head coach of a Bombers team that lost its sixth game in a row to fall to 1-7.
"I’m not going to even worry about it," Burke said. "I mean, if they want to do something, they can. I’m doing the best I can with what I have."
Asked to make the pitch on why he thinks he should remain as the head coach of the embattled Bombers, the club’s media relations director Darren Cameron intervened, saying the question was unfair and refused to allow Burke to answer it.
So the same question was posed instead to the Bombers players, who are, after all, the people most responsible for putting Burke in the position where the question is even being asked of him.
What emerged was a locker-room that still fully supports its head coach.
"No question about it. And that’s the thing that’s extremely frustrating to me — a lot of the stuff ultimately falls on (Burke’s) shoulders at this point," said offensive tackle Glenn January. "And I think he’s one of the best head coaches I’ve ever had.
"Just the way he approaches the team and conducts himself with us — his no-BS attitude. I definitely respond well to that. He’s a very, very good coach. Ultimately, this is a player’s game and we have to go out and execute in a way that’s good enough to get wins."
Whether the Bombers can do that soon enough to save Burke’s job remains to be seen — and it’s worth at least mentioning that today is the one-year anniversary of the firing of Paul LaPolice, the last Bombers head coach. He was fired a year ago today after a Bombers loss to B.C. dropped the Bombers to 2-6, which is one win better than where the Bombers are today.
"We all love coach Burke and I know personally this has nothing to do with him," said linebacker Pierre-Luc Labbe. "It’s about us — we have to step it up. The game plan is good. We know it’s nobody else’s fault but ours."
With this season’s 1-7 start added to the 4-6 record the Bombers posted under Burke as a head coach in 2012, the longtime former CFL defensive co-ordinator is 5-13 in his first head coaching job.
But the case to keep Burke through the end of the season and give him a chance to turn things around goes like this:
Former Bombers GM Joe Mack was fired just two weeks ago because it was felt he did a poor job building the current team and was responsible for the club not having a viable starting quarterback or the depth of talent necessary to compete.
If you accept that to be true, it would seem a stretch then to just two weeks later tie a can to the man whose job it is to try and get wins out of the empty cupboard Mack left behind.
That appears to be the thinking of the Bombers brain trust right now, who are pledging a mini-airlift of new players in the coming days, presumably to give their embattled head coach at least some new options.
Help cannot come soon enough — the 1-7 Bombers head into Regina next Sunday against a Saskatchewan Roughriders team that has the mirror of Winnipeg’s record at 7-1.
Just to illustrate how quickly things can turn in the CFL, that’s the exact reverse of the situation at this time just two years ago, when it was Winnipeg who was 7-1 and Saskatchewan 1-7 heading into the 2011 Labour Day weekend game.