Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A shoulder to cry on or a kick in the pants?

Burke likely to offer both as Bombers lick wounds

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Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke was candid when describing his defence lately: 'It sucked.'

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke was candid when describing his defence lately: 'It sucked.'

He's threatened and cajoled, wrapped a consoling arm around players and got in their grills and screamed until his mug had turned every possible shade of red.

So, what's Tim Burke's next act as head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, now 1-4 and in a three-game nosedive?

More of the same, it would appear.

"Over the last couple of days I've had a lot of time to think about things," said Burke, who returned to Winnipeg Tuesday after dealing with a personal matter in Kansas over the weekend. "I've seen some areas where I can be a more positive influence, I think.

"I think I'll probably consult a little more on the defensive side, maybe a little more direction. I may actually go hands on with the DBs (defensive backs) a little bit since they're not playing very well... I could screw 'em up even more."

Not likely. Among the many issues for the Bombers of late -- and there are many -- is how a defence that looked so dominant earlier this year has become so predictable and easy to torch over the last three games.

Part of that is new faces being plugged in to a defensive dozen ravaged by injuries. But the really horrific development to what's happening on the defensive side of the ball, Burke's specialty before he became the head knock, is that many of the mistakes are being made by veterans this defence was supposedly built around.

Repeating some horrific numbers that have been thrown around since last week's loss to Calgary: the last three starting quarterbacks the Bombers have faced -- Henry Burris, Ricky Ray and Bo Levi Mitchell, who was making his first start -- have combined to complete 87.1 per cent of their passes for 1,024 yards and seven touchdowns against zero interceptions.

Burke's term to describe his defence of late: "It sucked."

"I don't know about the last two games," he said. "We just made some terrible mistakes that were just basic mistakes... Those are really egregious mistakes. I mean, just totally wrong mistakes by a couple of DBs. We can't do that. We're talking veteran guys doing these things."

Asked if the club might airlift in some talent to pressure those messing up -- which would be completely out of character for this regime -- Burke added:

"That would be up to (GM) Joe (Mack) who he would want to bring in, but certainly there's a couple of guys whose jobs are in jeopardy... and I'm not going to mention who. We're not going to stand for that kind of play.

"We're at a point where we shouldn't be having these mental errors, certainly not in the coverage we've played the most and the one we put in during training camp. That's where my patience is pretty thin."

That's a common theme in Bomberland these days, where nerves are frayed and concern is growing -- the Mack regime is now into its fourth year and the pressure to win right now is, quite obviously, enormous. And so, the calling out of veterans for poor play is painted against the backdrop of a football-operations department worried about their own futures.

And that hardly makes coming to the office every day a joy.

Burke was asked about how he planned to manage that balancing act when the team returned to work on Thursday -- wanting to scream and yell on one hand, yet knowing there are still 13 games remaining -- and his answer offered a glimpse at the frustration level.

"I'll mix it up. I'll try to be a teacher first and a drill sergeant second," he said. "There's certain parts I'm going to yell.

"As a coach and a teacher you still have to maintain a positive approach and you still have to inspire and not tear down. It becomes more business. You've just got to say, 'If we continue to do this then we're going to have to make some changes. It's just business. If you can't then we've got to find somebody else who can.'

"If it was a young guy making a mistake you would probably be patient. But if it's a veteran making a mistake and they've been through this... then you can't let it go. I don't want to get into why it's going on because I don't know why it's going on and I'll ask them why. But we're just not going to stand for it."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 31, 2013 D1

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Updated on Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 7:05 AM CDT: Replaces photo

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