Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Buchko's no chicken

Lays it all on line by refusing to take easy way out

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Welcome to the final table, Garth Buchko.

In the Texas hold 'em tournament that is the Winnipeg Blue Bomber football club, you just played your first hand.

In new jobs, some people like to dip a toe into unfamiliar territory, and then gradually ease themselves into what may be turbulent waters.

With the announcement on Thursday by Buchko that Joe Mack, the GM of the Winnipeg Football Club, would be back for another season, Buchko just did a double-gainer off the promenade deck of the good ship controversial, steaming at 15 knots for the 2013 season.

While Buchko has had his hands full with the new stadium and generating new revenue streams since he has taken occupancy as CEO, this was his first public decision that directly affects the constitution of this football team, and it could not have been an easy one for him to make.

If there ever was a crash course as to how to oversee a publicly owned football team, Garth just graduated from an accelerated version of it, unceremoniously. With plenty of managerial experience, but no explicit football background, this was easily the most impacting decision of his short tenure at the helm of this team.

The safe thing to do, when at best, your GM's record will be 20-34 or, at worst, 19-35, and will be on the outside looking in at the playoffs for the second time in three years, is to clean house.

Buchko could have fired Mack and brought in a Tom Higgins, a Duane Ford, or a John Murphy. They may or may not have retained Tim Burke -- with this franchise's appetite for rookie head coaches, they probably would have -- and done who knows what to the roster and with the Buck Pierce situation. But either way, with the easy decision, would have come breathing room.

A new GM for football operations would have spelled tolerance for this team and more time for Buchko to adjust to his environment. No one would have expected anybody to come in here in their first year and turn troughs into toilets.

In fact, if he had cleaned house, Buchko would be far ahead in the polls of public approval and opinion. Not only would the discontent of 2012 been behind him, but in all likelihood a new regime would not have to do too much to better this year's five- or six-win season.

Any or all of the success that would have come from such a decision, would have had the Buchko stamp on it, but this is not the path of a freshly paved parkway.

When someone sends their meal back at a restaurant, it's harder to appease them by throwing it back on the grill or in the oven, and adding a little zest or spice to it. The easiest thing to do is to just make them a new entree, so they have that optimism that it might come out the way they wanted it the second time around. You have to admire Buchko for not insulating himself with his decision.

It's a natural inclination, though, when you are a rookie at any job, to not rock the boat or incite a tsunami until you get the lay of the land.

With such a monumental decision on his plate, his instincts may have told him to just play out the hand. For it's one thing to fire an existing GM, and a whole other thing to start searching for a new one during your first year at the helm.

The one thing I'm sure entered his mind in making this decision, is that so far, every other year of the Mack regime, the team has gone to the big dance.

When they have had a season where they floundered, the next year they flourished. Or at least that's what happened once.

I would not protest the declaration that this team has a number of supremely talented players on it, and that Mack brought a large percentage of them here. Chad Simpson and Chris Matthews are walking, talking, testaments to his scouting prowess. He also brought Buck Pierce here, and when Buck managed to play 16 of 18 games and stay out of the way of the defence in 2011, we all got to go to the Big Show.

We can only hope, though, that Buchko's rationale for retaining Mack was not simply predicated on his ability to find talent and do well every other year.

I hope Joe Mack had the overwhelmingly best plan of action for what to do about the quarterback spot, because that will be the biggest determinant for everybody in 2013 that has a stake in this game.

Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays and game days in the Free Press.

Twitter: @DougBrown97

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 3, 2012 C2

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