Blue Bomber Report Record: 6–3–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

No point in sacking Mack now

Bombers' board gives GM rest of season to determine his fate

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Bill WATCHORN said Tuesday that Joe Mack is going to be the general manager of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for the rest of the 2012 season, regardless of what happens through the final nine games of what has thus far been an unmitigated debacle.

Good for Watchorn, the chairman of the Bombers' board of directors -- he'd have been a fool if he'd said anything else.

Very little organizational good can come from sacking Mack at this point in the season, no matter how much some fans might want to see him go or how many 'likes' a Fire Joe Mack Facebook page has attracted.

Yes, the schadenfreude in the board canning Mack right now would be delicious for all the fans in this town who don't like Mack for a lot of reasons: He's not active enough in the free agent market; he's too focused on youth and not enough on the value of veteran experience; he's a lousy judge of Canadian talent (hello, Jade Etienne); he's been lousy at the draft (hello Jade Etienne and Tyson Pencer); and he's failed miserably in landing Winnipeg a reliable and effective starting quarterback.

But mostly, the folks who hate Mack right now cite as their No. 1 reason his controversial move late last month to sack Paul LaPolice and replace him as head coach with Tim Burke.

For those folks, Sunday's 52-0 shellacking in Regina at the hands of the Saskatchewan Roughriders was irrefutable proof that not only was LaPolice not part of the problem, he was apparently part of the solution given how badly the team regressed in his absence.

That's absurd, of course. You can have all kinds of harsh opinions on Mack's wisdom in firing LaPolice, but to suggest the argument is now concluded based on what occurred on the seventh day of the Burke regime shows a naiveté about how football teams are put together.

The nautical analogy works easiest here: If the head coach is the captain, the team is more of an ocean liner than a speedboat, meaning it takes some time and distance to significantly alter the speed and direction it's been travelling.

But leaving aside how ridiculous the Bombers' board would have looked if they suddenly acquiesced to the demands for Mack's scalp and sacked him in the wake of the Labour Day collapse, it's hard to see what positive could have come from it at this point.

The work of a CFL GM is overwhelmingly done in the off-season: in the re-signing period that immediately follows the end of the previous season; during the free agency period; and then in the lead-up to training camp.

While there are some mid-season adjustments a GM can make -- signing an NFL castoff, for instance, or, on rare occasions, orchestrating a trade -- basically what's done is done personnel-wise, especially nine games into the season as we now are. So even if the Bombers' board were to fire Mack today and breed Bill Polian, Wally Buono or the late Cal Murphy as his immediate replacement, it's hard to believe there would be much meaningful change in 2012.

The thirst for blood would be quenched, sure, but how long before the fans started clamouring for even more scalps further up the line?

Like I said, Watchorn is no fool. Right now, it's Mack's head on the chopping block if this thing doesn't get turned around this season.

And that's where it's going to stay.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Blue determined to stay the course

Here's some of what Bill Watchorn, chairman of the board of directors of the Winnipeg Football Club, told the Free Press on Tuesday:

"Our position is we stay the course."

-- Watchorn on GM Joe Mack's employment status

"Yes."

-- Watchorn on whether Mack has the job until the end of the 2012 season, no matter what the team does in its final nine games

"He will face this head-on, as he should."

-- Watchorn confirming Mack will hold a news conference at some point this week

"I'm frustrated, disappointed and embarrassed at the game on Sunday."

-- Watchorn summing up the views of all Bombers fans

"We're all worried about that. That's why we all want this to improve."

-- Watchorn on concerns any continuing on-field struggles will begin to impact the team financially as it prepares to move into a new stadium next season

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 5, 2012 D1

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