December 5, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Tim BURKE didn't have to think very long when he was hit with a question on whether the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are already pooched for the season at 1-3 heading into tonight's game.
"There are four teams in the league at 1-3 and three of them are in the East. It's far from over," said a calm and measured Burke early Thursday morning. "There are 14 games left. A lot can happen. I'm not saying we're the type of team B.C. was in 2011 but they started 1-7 and won the Grey Cup."
Burke's Bombers have been awful on offence to date and despite strong defensive performances in the first three games of the season, threw up a clunker on that side of the ball last week as well.
"We're a work in progress. I felt after the win in Montreal we were really making some headway and that our offence would catch up to our defence but it just hasn't happened," said Burke, now 4-9 since taking over as head coach in Winnipeg midway through last summer.
"We need to handle adversity a lot better than we are. We're still a team that waits to see if something good or bad is going to happen instead of just going out and playing the game and making something good happen."
-- Tim Burke
Burke is of the opinion there are enough good players on his roster to get wins and that a massive in-season overhaul isn't required.
"An airlift? I know what you mean. I think there is enough talent to win. We have to have better quarterback play and more offensive success. That's the key to turning this around," he said.
Leading right into the question on whether the Bombers made the right decisions at quarterback this off-season, electing to stick with Pierce and releasing Alex Brink and Joey Elliott. Pierce, injured or not, no longer appears to be the flavour of choice at quarterback. The clubs now hoping there's enough promise in Goltz's arm to save the season and a number of people's jobs.
"Well, we made the decisions we made. So we have to live with the decisions we made. I think Justin will do a good job this week and make us look good," Burke said.
Burke is plainspoken and open with the media, sometimes to the point of blunt. On Thursday, he said his offensive line, "blocked like crap," in their last game. Some coaches prefer to be vanilla but Burke doesn't view that as an advantage.
"I don't see how my being open would limit my longevity. There are a lot of coaches that don't say anything to the media. I don't think that would fly in Winnipeg," mused Burke. "You have to be a very successful coach to not be open with the media and the public. There's no doubt the media is the conduit to our fan base."
Burke told fans after a disappointing pre-season they should wait at least four games before evaluating his team. That time has arrived and some are screaming for change.
The realities of pro football, however, make it difficult to make sweeping alterations to a roster in a short time. Most good players already have jobs. The ones on the street are there for a reason.
"I think what people can say after four games is we have a solid defence and our offence is not very good right now. We need to improve the offence and when we do, I think things will get better," said Burke.
Following poor offensive outings this season, Burke has often said he didn't have immediate answers and he would first have to talk to offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton.
That's not Burke putting the blame on Crowton but a simple extension of a defensive coach admitting he has little input on the offence.
"I suppose that would be true because I'm not an offensive coach and I can't go in there and say, 'I want to see this play and I want to see that play.' But I don't do that with the defence and I'm a defensive coach," said Burke. "This is Casey's (co-ordinator Creehan) defence and he's doing a great job. I'm just a consultant to him. If I was an offensive coach and our defence was struggling you'd be able to ask the same question."
Another loss and much of what Burke had to say Thursday will sound hollow. But don't expect his views to change that much win or lose today.
"I have to use patience. Part of being a head coach is you have to be the stable one and the rock everyone can count on," said Burke. "If I'm going crazy and flying off the handle, I don't see how that can help anyone."
For the Bombers and their fans the best help, of course, will be a win.
email@example.com Twitter: @garylawless
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 26, 2013 C3