Blue Bomber Report Record: 3–15–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

REUNITED

And it feels so good for Burke, Creehan and Bombers D

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Tim BURKE got his man.

And Casey Creehan couldn't be happier to be had.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach said in a conference call Thursday that he believes the hiring of Creehan as the club's new defensive co-ordinator is a big step forward in making the 2013 Bombers defence look a lot more like the fierce, league-leading unit that led the CFL in 2011 and less like the anemic bunch that got pushed around for much of 2012.

"I really trust Casey and he trusts me," said Burke. "We have a great working relationship. Obviously we're friends, but we have a working relationship that spans three different clubs. Casey is a great idea guy and I really value that in him. We have the same defensive philosophy...

"That was important to me. To hire a co-ordinator who believes in the same style of defence that I believe in."

As the Free Press first reported Wednesday evening, Winnipeg's former defensive line and linebackers coach will rejoin the Bombers for the 2013 season after a one-year stint as the defensive co-ordinator of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Creehan coached in Winnipeg in 2010 and 2011 and is a longtime coaching partner of Burke. The two men have also coached together in Calgary and Montreal and have together presided over some of the best defences in the league.

Creehan replaces Burke, who held both the defensive co-ordinator and head coach position in 2012 after he replaced Paul LaPolice as Bombers head coach when LaPolice was fired in August.

"I'm very excited about the players that are (in Winnipeg) and I'm excited to get back and work with them," said Creehan.

But perhaps more than anything, Creehan sounded excited to be back working with Burke, who has served as a mentor since the two first worked together in 2005 in Calgary.

"I saw a guy right away who I thought was a great football coach and an even better person," said Creehan. "Me being a young coach at that time -- and I still am to this day -- I thought right away if I was lucky enough I could maybe follow in his footsteps throughout the coaching ranks and learn from him.

"And that's what I've been able to do through all these years, to be around a guy who knows a lot about football who's been able to teach me but also help me develop as a person."

Creehan also gave Bomber GM Joe Mack a resounding endorsement. "What I see is a team that has gotten tremendously better in terms of talent over the years. And the one responsible for that... is Joe Mack. I think he's a tremendous evaluator of talent, a great GM, but an even better person.

"And the reason I say that is Joe is a straight shooter and he's an honest man."

A native of Pittsburgh, Creehan had a year left on his contract in Hamilton, but he had fallen out of favour after a terrible season that saw the Ticats give up more points than any other team in the league and finish dead last in the CFL in 11 of 25 defensive categories.

Despite his failings in Hamilton, Creehan was from the very start Burke's first choice to replace himself. Burke said the problems in Hamilton had more to do with a myriad of injuries on the Hamilton defence, especially in the secondary, than any failing on the part of Creehan.

"Stats never tell the whole story," said Burke.

Creehan made a similar case in his own defence. "The better defences in this league have continuity and consistency and that's one thing we were unable to get down over there in Hamilton in my short stint there," Creehan said. "We played a lot of different combinations in the secondary and the defensive line due to injuries and rookies and whatever the circumstances might have been.

"There were some things we did really well in spurts in Hamilton, but we were inconsistent."

The Bombers defence, of course, was also inconsistent in 2012 and Burke said he thinks the return of Creehan, who he said several players requested he rehire after the 2012 season, should go a long way to reigniting the spark.

And if it doesn't? Burke said he made clear what the consequences will be when he spoke to his defence at the end of the season. "When we come back, we're going to have that great desire and effort," Burke said he told his players, "or we're going to make some changes. And that's just the bottom line."

Cornerback Jovon Johnson said Thursday that he thinks Creehan will help restore the fire in the Bombers defence. "I think just having him back will improve the overall play and the attitude. He just has that kind of leadership and all the players really respect him."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

The Casey

Creehan file

AGE: 35

HOMETOWN: Pittsburgh

Married to Lori

Bachelors Degree -- Political Science, Grove City (1999)

Masters Degree -- Health/Physical Education, Emporia State (2006)

Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke and new defensive co-ordinator Casey Creehan first met while on the coaching staff of the Calgary Stampeders in 2005 and they've been working together, off and on, ever since.

Here's a look at their history together:

2005-07: Burke joined the Stampeders as their defensive backs coach in 2005 and first met Creehan, who had been in Calgary for a full season as the Stamps defensive line coach. Burke quickly made a name for himself and in 2007 was promoted to interim defensive co-ordinator.

2008: Burke got hired as the defensive co-ordinator in Montreal and brought Creehan with him to serve as linebackers coach. The Als defence finished second in the CFL that season in points allowed, yards against the rush and sacks, and Montreal won the East Division championship.

2011: After spending the 2009 and 2010 seasons apart, the two were reunited in Winnipeg in when Burke was hired as the Bombers defensive co-ordinator and arrived to find Creehan here as linebackers coach. After the death of Richard Harris in July 2011, Creehan added defensive line coach to his portfolio. Under Burke and Creehan, the Bombers 'Swaggerville' defence finished first in the CFL in 12 defensive categories and carried the Bombers to the 2011 Grey Cup game.

2012: The two men spent the season apart after Creehan took a job in Hamilton as defensive co-ordinator. But after tough seasons in both Winnipeg and Hamilton and the appointment of Burke as the Bombers 29th head coach, Creehan resigned from the Ticats and was announced by Burke on Nov. 30 as Winnipeg's new defensive co-ordinator.

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

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