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Bomber Report

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Blue Bombers starting fresh

CEO Miller cuts Burke loose, but leaves door open for his return as defensive co-ordinator

Posted: 11/14/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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It wasn't exactly the kind of newsflash that left the Canadian Football League community gobsmacked. Truth be known, any football coach in any league with a 7-21 record -- regardless of the extenuating circumstances, as compelling as they may be -- has to know a pink slip is possibly in his future.

 

And so when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers officially announced Wednesday that Tim Burke would not return as head coach in 2014, it didn't exactly shake up the neighbourhood.

But the news did come with two juicy sidebars, one expected, the other not so much.

First, whenever a vacancy opens in an eight/soon-to-be-nine team league, the list of potential candidates instantly starts getting tossed around for discussion. That was no different Wednesday when names like Khari Jones, Chris Jones, Dave Dickenson, Jacques Chapdelaine and Tom Higgins, among others, were all over the Twitter-verse, chat rooms and sports radio.

The second sidebar -- Bomber president and CEO Wade Miller's suggestion/hope the new head coach would consider keeping Burke as defensive co-ordinator -- did raise a few eyebrows around the three-down loop.

"I think we'd be lucky as an organization to have Tim back as a defensive co-ordinator," said Miller at a press conference Wednesday. "That's a decision that the new head coach and general manager will make, but that is something that Tim and I discussed.

"He has a record of going to the Grey Cup four years in a row as a defensive co-ordinator and winning two of those. So, that is something that is definitely open. (Burke) would like to meet the new head coach and, obviously, the new head coach has got to be comfortable with that. "There's nothing in place, but I think that goes to the character of who Tim Burke is and I look forward to whoever our new head coach and general manager is going to be in meeting with him and seeing if there is a role and if it's a good fit."

That's a big if, seeing as any new coach would both like to surround himself with staff he knows and trusts and be confident enough in his own skin to have the man he is replacing still involved.

All that said, in the attempted rebuild of a Bombers franchise that has missed the playoffs four of the last five seasons, having a defensive co-ordinator with Burke's credentials -- and his knowledge of the personnel in place -- could be viewed as a positive for the new head knock.

At least, that's how Miller and the Bombers are spinning it.

A respected defensive co-ordinator for years in the CFL, Burke became the interim head coach of the team on Aug. 25, 2012, replacing Paul LaPolice. The Bombers went 4-6 to finish 2012 and showed enough improvement for him to be introduced as the head coach on Nov. 1, 2012.

But the 2013 season was nothing short of a disaster, with GM Joe Mack, president Garth Buchko and offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton all fired during the summer and with three different quarterbacks starting games all en route to a 3-15 nightmare.

Miller informed Burke of the decision on Tuesday. The other members of the coaching staff, it's worth noting, all have contracts that expire this winter.

"I didn't feel it was appropriate to have Tim waiting for the next three or four or five weeks in determining what his future was with the organization," said Miller. "I believe it was the right step for the organization and to make sure that, typically a new general manager is going to want to hire his own person and I believe now we've set that path."

Burke was not available for comment, but did state in the club's press release: "I've really enjoyed my time in Winnipeg and am grateful for the opportunity this franchise gave me. The fan support in this city and province is just really remarkable and it is one of the greatest things I can take away from this experience in Winnipeg."

Miller said he wanted the new head coach to "bring an attitude, bring leadership and bring a vision of where we need to go" along with the general manager.

As for the search for a new GM -- Kyle Walters still has the acting title despite the belief he will get the job -- Miller said he was "working down that timeline now" and a decision would be made in the next two to four weeks.

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 14, 2013 D1

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