Blue Bomber Report Record: 3–15–0

Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Without Lapo to blame, Bombers, Mack own Labour Day loss

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REGINA - If this keeps up, the devoid-of-character Winnipeg Blue Bombers and their GM Joe Mack will have two good men as notches on their collective belts by season’s end.

This is Tim Burke’s mess to clean now, and if his roster continues to perform they way it did on Sunday there is little chance of him ever having the interim label removed from his title.

With no excuses, no coaches to scapegoat and nowhere to hide, the players that make up the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were given a beating for the ages on Sunday.

The final score, a 52-0 win for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, was generous. The Riders let up on the gas in the second half and had their third string quarterback in the game when the clock elapsed.

The Winnipeg team was beaten every which way. Out-tackled, out-blocked, out-passed, out-rushed, out-everything.

The Bombers are now 2-7 and officially the worst team in the land.

Joe Mack insists this roster is talented and underperformed due to the coaching of Paul LaPolice. I didn’t see Lapo hanging around this carcass. Residual effect from his having lost the room? Should work the other way, one would think.

We’re not sure what Mack thinks in the aftermath of his handiwork. He wouldn’t address the media on Sunday.

But let’s be clear: Those were Mack’s players on the field on Sunday. He recruited and drafted and signed them and kept them on the roster. He’s responsible for the players and how they perform. Not LaPolice and certainly not Burke.

No, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers didn’t quit on Paul LaPolice. They quit on themselves. That was very evident on Sunday. The Riders came out and whacked them in the chops and the Bombers had zero response. All day. Not one burst. Not one charge. They laid down. And got stomped.

Coaches like Burke work a long time to lead a staff. They deserve more than this.

Mack has already clipped Paul LaPolice for the sins of this group, selling some junk about losing the room as the main reason for the dismissal.

The Bombers responded with a complete non-effort on Sunday in the biggest day of the regular season. The players no longer have Lapo to blame. They own this loss. And Mack, as the architect and mastermind behind this roster, owns the players.

Together, the players and the man who collected them, stood naked on Sunday with no curtains to hide behind. You be the judge.

The GM reportedly spoke to over 20 players on his roster to get a gauge on his coach and then determined it was time to fire LaPolice. Getting rid of LaPolice would solve the woes of these Bombers.

Mack fired Paul LaPolice on the basis of players telling him the coach had lost the room. That’s why they were 2-6 under the coach that had taken this franchise to the Grey Cup just last season.

Never mind the argument could be made this team should be 1-8 and has the worst talent in the league. Put it all on the coach.

This team stinks. But Mack would have you believe it’s not because the room is long on phony swagger and short on substance. Not because Mack failed to give LaPolice a consistent answer at quarterback. And certainly not because Mack stripped the roster of key veterans in place of cheaper, younger players.

"When I broke down the film and talent level, I saw players playing extremely hard, with a lot of heart. I talked to them repeatedly and asked them; do you think your fellow teammates care? They always said yes, yet we were not producing results that would equate to what I was seeing on the field and what the players were saying and that gave me great pause," explained Mack, on the day of LaPolice’s firing.

Heart? What is this man watching?

A week and one game into the Tim Burke regime and the words seem hollow. They seemed hollow to me when immediately uttered but this game was the punctuation mark.

LaPolice was framed. By his players that quit on themselves and by Mack for failing to put together a competitive roster.

Burke is now on the defence stand for the same crime. But he shouldn’t be.

The wrong people are paying the price.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca
Twitter: @garylawless

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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