Winnipeg Blue Bombers general manager Joe Mack, who received a public endorsement from the team’s CEO Garth Buchko at Thursday’s press conference, lauded the team’s character and performance in the last six games.
Speaking at a press conference at the Blue and Gold room to announce Tim Burke as the team’s full-time head coach and no longer having the interim label, Mack acknowledged the organization was disappointed in its 5-12 record at this time but focused on recent play as positive signs for the future.
"We’re 3-and-3, which although we’d like to be better, we were (better) in every game. We had major victories at Montreal and at Toronto, which were division leaders. We were capable in the other two games of winning also," Mack said. "This despite the fact that we had numerous injuries to our starting quarterback, to all the running backs, our starting defensive ends. The team continued to compete.
"All these factors and the way Tim (head coach Burke) and the rest of his staff were able to maintain the sense of integrity, professionalism and integrity, convinced me, along with the fact that Coach Burke has, I believe a strong feeling of enthusiasm and respect within the locker room."
Mack, who has a 19-34 record so far in his time as the team’s GM, said the team will have its quarterback situation resolved by April 1, 2013 or at least before the first mini-camps next spring and that Buck Pierce will be evaluated by coaches and doctors before the team decides whether it will go forward with him next season.
He addressed the quarterback issue, which has seen starter Pierce miss most of the season with a myriad of injuries and no consistent play from either backup, Joey Elliott or Alex Brink.
"We have to get more consistency in our quarterback play," Mack said.
"We have a great leader in Buck Pierce. I want to be clear, you cannot say enough good things about Buck’s leadership, toughness and his ability to be a good teammate. Unfortunately, as we’re all aware, Buck has had some back luck in regards to injury."
He said the team’s biggest issue in the off-season will be to "formulate a plan to see how we can get that consistency and clarity in the quarterback situation," Mack said.
Mack said Burke can choose his own assistant coaches.
"We made some great strides, in the last six games, we actually have the most potent offence in the league right now," Mack said.
He referred to some notes from Bombers media staff to illustrate the improvement. "We’ve improved by almost 100 yards a game from where we started at the beginning of the year. We’re almost 400 yards a game (of offence), 391 yards over the last six games. We scored 17 touchdowns in that span, which is 2.83 per game, which is more than double what we were doing before. I think that shows we’re on the (right) path. We had a lot of injuries so that the coaches and players were able to work their way through, shows that we’re on the path to turning it around. We hope to just build on that. "