The walls in Tim Burke's new office are bare but for portraits of Cal Murphy, Ray Jauch, Mike Riley and Bud Grant.
The former Blue Bombers coaches all worked in far more spartan quarters than Burke is now enjoying but most football men will tell you they'd trade a swank office for what these men were able to attain.
"They were all successful. Ray Jauch is from Iowa, the same as me, and he got a lot done in his football career," said Burke. "Bud Grant speaks for himself and I got to know Cal and Mike when I would come up here during my time as a coach at the University of North Dakota."
Between the four of them, the men on Burke's walls collected 15 Grey Cups in various roles from player to coach.
Burke has won a pair of Cups himself as an assistant coach but realizes to have his portrait hung someday he'll likely need to win as a head coach.
Burke took a short break from CFL Draft preparations on Tuesday to show a reporter the team facilities at the new stadium and discuss some of the things he's hoping to accomplish this season. The goals he's set out are not modest. Nor is the approach he's about to take shy.
"If we were to finish 8-10 and get to the playoffs?" said Burke. "I'd take it but I'd be disappointed. I think we can be better than that. The goal is always to be the champion. My philosophy is you should be trying to achieve your personal best every day. If you are at your best today, you have to do more the day after and the day after. If you're not doing that every day, I don't see how we're going to be better as a team."
If there was any confusion about who is in charge of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers it will soon be dispersed. Burke is the leader. He'll set the tone, demand accountability and be held responsible for the wins and losses.
Burke made 14 stops in a 35-year coaching career before being named interim head coach in the middle of last season. He had the interim tag removed at season's end and will embark on his first training camp as a head coach on June 2.
Young coaches sometimes get caught up being something they're not, but Burke will either succeed or fail being himself. Discipline, right off the bat, is something he wants to get straight with the Bombers.
"I've told Joe (GM Mack) I wanted to crack down on a few things and he just said, 'Hey, you're the head coach.' There were some things I didn't like last year. I want to nip that in the bud," said Burke. "Guys were going out at inappropriate times and I want to take care of that. I'm not one that likes to pass up a beer now and again either. But this is a job and your body is the tool of your trade. If you're out boozing it up and come in hung over the next day, that obviously isn't going to wash with me. I'm not asking them to be choirboys but I'm not going to let them be hell-raisers."
Last season, four members of the Bombers failed to return to Winnipeg on time for the first practice following the team's bye week. Burke understands there are legitimate reasons for being late but if the excuse doesn't meet his inspection, look out.
"If they're late this year, there will be more consequences to face," he said.
There's been a lot of conjecture about the professional relationship between Mack and previous head coach Paul LaPolice. Mack is a veteran personnel man and LaPolice was a rookie head coach. Certain lines may have been blurred when it came to making roster decisions.
Burke says he'll pick the players he puts on the field.
"Our position coaches will evaluate and have their opinions on who we should keep," said Burke. "But then as the head coach, I'll have the final say. Joe might have a guy he really likes and wants us to give a little more time but pretty much he'll leave that up to us coaches."
In the end, Burke will be judged on his record. And much of that will be out of his control. From injuries to officiating to weather, there are lots of factors a coach can't sway.
But what Burke can dictate, from work ethic to accountability to preparation, he's got a plan and he'll execute it. Football teams need a leader and a man to stand out front. To show the way.
Tim Burke is in charge of the Blue Bombers.
That's a step in the right direction. Now, let's see where he leads them.
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