Winnipeg Blue Bombers general manager Joe Mack says a continent-wide search for a new assistant GM determined the best man was already working in the Bombers offices.
Mack told reporters during a conference call Wednesday afternoon that the club considered 16-18 candidates from across North America for its vacant assistant GM job before deciding to promote special teams coach Kyle Walters to the position.
"A lot of people had extensive experience in pro football in the CFL and the NFL, to be quite frank," said Mack. "But with Kyle, he’s been in the league for three years (and) it’s a huge positive he’s played in the league and been captain of a team.
"And (the fact) he’s been a head coach of CIS program just added to his overall value."
It’s known that the Bombers also pursued TSN analyst -- and widely respected Canadian "draftologist" -- Duane Forde to take the assistant-GM job. But the Free Press reported last month that the Bombers balked at Forde’s salary demands and decided to hire Walters instead at the urging of Mack.
Mack said he intends to involve Walters in all aspects of the Bombers front office, from draft research to negotiating with agents -- the Bombers potentially have 12 free agents this winter and will also likely be a buyer in the free agent market.
Walters does have some experience negotiating contracts -- he acted as his own agent during his playing career.
But asked if he will be grooming Walters to be his own successor, Mack hedged. "I think any good organization ought to be conscious of a success plan. Our intention is certainly for Kyle to grow in the position and be a candidate if that does occur."
Mack said that the final say on all decisions -- including on draft day -- will remain his. "Although everyone will be involved in the process... it will always be the general manager’s final decision when it comes to personnel."
Walters replaces longtime former assistant-GM Ross Hodgkinson, who was sacked last month.
Walters -- who had a seven-year CFL career as a defensive back in Hamilton -- joined the Bombers in 2010 after four years as head coach of the Guelph Gryphons of the CIS.
In 2011, he added duties as the Bombers Canadian College Draft Coordinator and on Wednesday added the title of Director of Canadian Scouting to his new assistant-GM title.
"I’m excited to get going," said Walters. "From a Canadian draft standpoint, I’m just planning on building on what we’ve already been doing the last couple years.
"Instead of spending four to six weeks after the season trying to cram everything in...I’m excited at the opportunity to get out more during the season and be less focussed on coaching and more being able to be at the schools and see practices and kind of spread the workload out throughout the entire year."
Walters was part of the decision-making that went into some very successful recent Bombers draft picks, most notably offensive lineman Chris Greaves and middle linebacker Henoc Muamba. But Walters was also in the room when the club used their fourth overall and third overall selections the last two years respectively to pick receiver Jade Etienne -- who’s got one catch in two years -- and offensive lineman Tyson Pencer -- who has yet to play a down in the regular season because of a recurring shoulder problem.
Mack said he still holds out high hopes for both Etienne and Pencer. Walters says his grading of all eight CFL teams’ performance in recent drafts has the Bombers at or near the top.
Walters, 39, is married with two children. The family resides year-round in Winnipeg.
Mack said he has already had preliminary discussions with head coach Tim Burke about hiring a new special teams coach, but said that decision won’t likely be made until the New Year.