December 8, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Tim Burke and Casey Creehan go way back. And with the firing of Chip Garber this week, it's starting to seem more and more likely that they are going to go forward together too.
And wouldn't that be an interesting sales pitch to Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans -- the architect of the worst defence in Canada is taking over the reins of the Bombers defence in 2013.
But we'll get to that. First, a little background:
Garber was the Bombers linebackers coach in 2012 and he also did double duty in the second half of the season as a sort of acting defensive co-ordinator after Burke took over the head coach job in the wake of the Paul LaPolice firing.
Garber had also been the defensive co-ordinator for two seasons in Toronto in 2010 and 2011 and when Burke announced at the end of this season that he was in the market for a new defensive co-ordinator to replace himself in 2013, Garber's name quite logically came up as a possible candidate.
But then word leaked out on Thursday -- the Bombers aren't confirming it, but sources say it's true -- that the club has decided to can Garber.
Which is too bad for Garber, a genuinely likeable man who felt, with some justification, that he'd gotten screwed by Jim Barker when the Argos GM fired him after the 2011 season.
But what's most interesting is what this latest development says about which way Burke is leaning in his search for a new defensive co-ordinator.
With Garber now out of the picture, the rabid speculation about Burke bringing Creehan back to Winnipeg gained more momentum on Thursday.
And with some justification, given the history between the two men:
They worked together from 2005-07 in Calgary, when Burke was the Stampeders defensive backs coach and Creehan was the defensive line coach.
When Burke got hired in 2008 as the Montreal Alouettes defensive co-ordinator, he brought Creehan along with him to be his linebackers coach.
Then, after spending two seasons apart, the two reunited again in 2011 when Burke joined the Bombers as their defensive co-ordinator and found Creehan already here.
The 2011 season was, of course, the magical year of the Bombers Swaggerville defence and Creehan parlayed his role in it into a defensive co-ordinator job for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats this season.
Unfortunately for Creehan, however, Hamilton gave up more points than any other team in the league in 2012 and finished dead last in the CFL in 11 of 25 defensive categories. And that's led to rampant speculation that Hamilton will announce after the Grey Cup that they have fired Creehan with one year still remaining in his contract.
Could Burke scoop Creehan up? And, even more to the point, could Burke sell that idea to his bosses and the Winnipeg fandom at large?
The players here all loved Creehan and made no secret in the dying weeks of the season that they'd love to play for him as their defensive co-ordinator.
And for what it's worth, defensive back Jovon Johnson said Thursday that he thinks the Hamilton defensive troubles this season had nothing to do with Creehan and everything to do with the weak personnel he had in the secondary there.
Still, with all the fires burning at Canad Inns Stadium right now, the idea of introducing a guy with that kind of baggage as the man who is going to lead the Bombers defence into this bright new future the club is promising might be tough to sell.
What are the alternatives? Well, former Bombers defensive co-ordinator -- and Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach for a day -- Greg Marshall isn't doing anything these days. And Burke had an intriguing answer when he was asked about that possibility last week, telling reporters that he was confident Marshall would be back in the CFL next season and closing with a cryptic "That's all I will say."
Does that mean Marshall is Burke's man, but he just cannot announce it yet because the CFL asks teams to keep their coaching moves quiet until after Grey Cup? Or does Burke know that Marshall has a job elsewhere but just cannot talk about it yet for the same reason?
Either way, the one thing that did become clear this week is that promoting Garber into the job is no longer an option.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 9, 2012 C3