He's the rarest of breeds -- a 58-year-old rookie.
Tim Burke, announced on Saturday as the interim head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, has spent his professional life in football, but he'd never been a head coach until Saturday when he was given the Bombers' reins following the sacking of Paul LaPolice.
Burke -- the team's defensive co-ordinator -- had just taken his seat in front of reporters when he noticed an immediate temperature change. "This is my first chance," Burke smiled, "at the hot seat."
It will only get hotter for Burke, who has a formidable challenge in figuring out how to turn into a playoff contender a 2-6 motley crew who played in a 20-17 loss to B.C. on Friday night with all the discipline of a 16-year-old with his first case of beer.
Burke is beloved by the defence he has molded in his own image and he said Saturday that he intends to bring some of his no-nonsense attitude to the entire team.
"I'll probably do some things different than Paul did, because it fits my personality," said Burke. "As most of you know, I'm not a long-winded guy and usually go right to the point. And that's the way I coach. You'll see some changes in how we do some things in practice and make them a little shorter and more intense and a lot more competitive. So hopefully that translates to the way we play on game day."
We'll find out soon enough. The Bombers take on the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Regina this Sunday, the first of the annual home-and-home series that culminates the following Sunday in the Banjo Bowl at Canad Inns Stadium.
The Bombers know very well what a coaching change can mean for a team at this time of year. The Riders fired their head coach, Greg Marshall, at exactly this point in the season last year -- they were 1-7 -- and promptly beat the Bombers in back-to-back games before then reverting to form and finishing the season at 5-13.
What's more, with a 17-10 loss to the Calgary Stampeders on Saturday, the Riders will head into the annual Labour Day Weekend clash having lost their last five games in a row.
Burke will have to make a major decision immediately. With QB Buck Pierce expected to be back and fully practising this week after missing five games with a foot injury, Burke will have to decide whether to rush him back into the lineup in Regina or simply go with Joey Elliott, who is 1-1 in his two starts for the Bombers.
Elliott was the CFL player of the week with a 406-yard performance Aug. 16 in a win against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, but the Ticats have the worst defence in the league and all eyes were on Elliott again when the Bombers faced the B.C. Lions and the league's best defence on Friday.
Elliott's output declined markedly. He finished the night 20-of-42 for 256 yards and an interception.
Burke was noncommittal on who he'll start next Sunday.
Burke said one of the first changes he will be bringing to the Bombers will be shorter practices that will be much more intense and competitive in a bid to get the club closer to practicing how they play.
"We gotta have a greater sense of urgency, and we've got to play with that relentlessness that we need to win in the CFL," Burke said.
Burke is a proven winner -- his defences have played in each of the last four Grey Cups, winning two of them -- and Bombers' GM Joe Mack paid Burke high praise in announcing him as the team's new interim head coach.
"I think a lot of him as a person. He has strong character. He has a lot of respect in the locker-room, I know that," said Mack. "And our defences have been some of the best defences, even though we had some struggles this year...
"They play their hearts out, and that's indicative of what Tim brings to the table. The players will respond to that."
Bombers slotback Terrence Edwards -- who said he was stunned to hear LaPolice was fired after the team had seemed to show improvement over the last month in going 2-2 after an 0-4 start -- said Burke might be well known to the defence but he is an unknown quantity to the players on offence.
"I have no idea what he'll be like. I really don't interact with coach Burke. I'm kind of excited to see myself."
Tim Burke's resumé
2011-present: Defensive co-ordinator, secondary coach -- Winnipeg Blue Bombers
2008-10: Defensive co-ordinator, secondary coach -- Montreal Alouettes
2007: Defensive co-ordinator -- Calgary Stampeders
2005-07: Secondary coach -- Calgary Stampeders
2004: Defensive co-ordinator, secondary coach -- Indiana State
2003: Defensive co-ordinator, secondary coach -- Tennessee-Chatanooga
2001: Defensive line coach -- Kansas
2000: Secondary coach -- Kansas
1997-99: Secondary coach -- Purdue
1995-96: Secondary coach -- Wyoming
1992-94: Defensive co-ordinator, secondary coach -- Ball State
1989-91: Secondary coach -- Ball State
1986-88: Defensive co-ordinator, secondary coach -- UND
1982-85: Defensive co-ordinator, secondary coach -- South Dakota
1981: Assistant coach -- Appalachian State
1980: Assistant coach -- Gardner Webb
1977-79: Assistant coach -- Minnesota