Blue Bomber Report Record: 3–1–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mack's fate in Buchko's hands

Blue board unlikely to contest CEO's decision

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Garth Buchko was hired to do a job and it appears he will be allowed to do so.

Priority No. 1 for the president and CEO of the Blue Bombers is to determine the direction the club will take with GM Joe Mack. His recommendation will need to be OK'd by the Blue Bombers board. The timing is his call, too.

"It'll be hard to go another way. Garth is the CEO," said Blue Bombers chairman of the board Bill Watchorn. "It's Garth's call on when we make a decision and when we make an announcement on that decision. It will likely be after the season is over. You can't make it during Grey Cup week. So you either make it before, in the next two weeks, or you wait until after. If you make a change and you wait until after Grey Cup, the scramble is on. Because then you have to find a replacement and then you have to hire a coach."

Mack is wrapping up his third season on the job and owns a .358 winning percentage -- a 19-34 mark in his tenure at the helm of the Bombers. But Watchorn says a decision on his future has not been made.

"I know which way Garth is leaning, but a decision hasn't been made. It gets talked about at every board meeting, so whatever is decided won't be a big surprise. Football is our business and we talk about football at every board meeting. We don't have another meeting until sometime in November but we are available to meet at any time regarding this matter," said Watchorn. "Garth will make a recommendation. Normally it would be his decision but this is a core football matter so he'll need the board's concurrence."

The arrival of an expansion franchise in Ottawa will potentially thin the GM market.

"There are never a lot of suitable candidates and now Ottawa is getting ready to hire a GM," said Watchorn.

Winnipeg must also guard against losing assistant GM Ross Hodgkinson to the Ottawa franchise. Hodgkinson is, "a Blue Bomber through and through," according to Watchorn but his name keeps on coming up in connection with Ottawa.

Hodgkinson knows the back end of a CFL operation like few others and plays an instrumental role in running the Winnipeg organization on a day-to-day basis while Mack concentrates on personnel matters.

Mack has recommended to Buchko that Tim Burke be hired as head coach for next season if the GM returns. The next press conference the Bombers hold will either be to announce Mack has been fired or to say Burke has been retained and the word interim removed from his title.

"Tim's a fair, tough and honest football man," said Watchorn.

Burke has gone 3-6 since taking over the head coaching duties in August. He's done a serviceable job under difficult circumstances.

A CFL insider asked me on Monday what the Bombers' record would be if the league's best coach was at the helm given the same tools Burke has been afforded. Those tools include a short-handed coaching staff and a starting quarterback in Buck Pierce, who played in seven games and finished just three all season.

My answer was the record still wouldn't be very good. Burke took on an impossible task and turned in predictable results.

Regardless of who is running the Bombers next season, there must be change at the quarterback position. Pierce is not the answer and backups Joey Elliott and Alex Brink, who have had three years to show they are the future, have not distinguished themselves.

B.C. backup Mike Reilly is one quarterback getting a lot of buzz in the league. He's eligible for free agency this winter and his agent Dan Van Woerkem and Lions GM Wally Buono have had no discussions about his future in Vancouver.

The Lions have Travis Lulay entrenched at quarterback and can't afford to pay Reilly starter money. Reilly will almost certainly hit the market this winter and the Bombers will have the an opportunity to sign him.

Mack will need to be busy this off-season if he's retained. Giving him a clear mandate and a head start on the off-season is key if he's going to have any chance at being successful.

The same can be said of an incoming GM.

Buchko needs to make his decision and announce it. Either call will be unpalatable to some but dithering won't change that. Move on or don't.

Just decide.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

BOMBERS CEO Garth Buchko answered a few questions regarding his football team Monday while touring the new stadium:

 

"The team's record overall is just disappointing. And it's not acceptable, and we will review everything in the whole organization, including football operations."

"The board and myself will meet, and we'll make a decision (on GM Joe Mack) very shortly."

"It'll be before the Grey Cup, for sure."

"I think (the win/loss record over the past three years) comes into play. The record that we've had this year is disappointing for sure. Part of the reviewing process is to review the record, but we also have to look at the talent that we have, and I think we have some great talent. We have one of the youngest teams in the CFL."

"I'm confident that I have surrounded myself with enough people who know football and talk to enough people who know football. My job is to hire one person, and that's the general manager in football operations. And what happens with the coach after that is the general manager's job. So I need to make an assessment on Joe Mack, the board needs to make an assessment on Joe Mack."

 

-- Lawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 30, 2012 C1

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

 

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