Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Walters officially takes over as Blue Bombers GM

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There might have been a temptation -- given the stage, the bright TV lights and the flash of cameras -- for Kyle Walters and Wade Miller to really play up the moment.

Maybe the duo thought about vigorously shaking hands and then flashing huge grins. Perhaps they rolled around the idea of doing one of those cheesy throwing-on-a-jersey-or-hat ceremonies to signify the "new" change atop the Winnipeg Blue Bombers football operations department.

Instead, there was no photo-op jocularity Tuesday when Miller made official what had been expected for months, naming Walters the Bomber GM.

Little wonder.

After all, the two men have been on the job since August -- both now having the "acting" tags dumped from their titles -- and understand fully just how significant the mess is they have now been officially tasked with cleaning up.

And a juggernaut franchise that is 9-27 over the past two seasons, has missed the playoffs in four of the last five years and has just one winning campaign since 2007 is hardly a quick fix, seeing as there is currently no head coach, no clearcut No. 1 quarterback and a whole pile of anger and apathy among the fan base.

Yup, welcome aboard, Mr. Walters.

"I'm driven to succeed in everything I want to do," said Walters Tuesday. "I might not outwardly show it, but I'm very excited for this opportunity. But I also understand that I'm not going to be satisfied until we get this organization to where it needs to be."

Walters' to-do list is significant, but he said his top priority is to get a head coach and scouting department in place. He and Miller have already done the asking-for-permission thing with coaches on other CFL clubs' staffs and are well into the process of finding the next Bomber head coach.

"The process has started and we want to get that done as quick as possible, is all I can say," said Walters. "I don't know if you can set an exact timeline for all the candidates and all the teams."

Speculation swirls

He wouldn't drop any names, but the speculation continues to swirl around the CFL Toronto Argonauts special-teams co-ordinator Mike O'Shea -- a former teammate of Walters' with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and University of Guelph -- is the leading candidate among a group said to include B.C. Lions offensive co-ordinator Jacques Chapdelaine, Saskatchewan Roughriders QB coach Khari Jones and Chris Jones, the Argos defensive co-ordinator, who is rumoured to be landing the vacant head coach job with the Edmonton Eskimos.

"We need a leader, we need a strong personality," said Walters. "We need somebody that the players are going to want to play for and be driven to succeed.

"He has to fit into the way we think... I think it's imperative that management and the head coach are all on the same page so that there is a unified message to the media, to the team."

Walters may be light on managerial experience -- he moved from the coaching staff to assistant GM just last winter -- but it was Miller's belief because he was already doing a large chunk of the job, including Canadian draft prep work, managing the salary cap, negotiating some contracts and getting ready for the Ottawa Redblacks expansion draft, he was the best candidate to help the Bombers hit the ground running in what will be a critical off-season.

After hiring a new coach and setting up the scouting department, Walters will get back to revamping the roster -- specifically the QB position and Canadian talent.

"My basic philosophy, as with most in the Canadian Football League, is you need to have production at the quarterback position and you need to have depth at your Canadians," said Walters. "And that is priority No. 1 when you start looking at our roster."

Of note on that end, Walters said while contract discussions have been ongoing, linebacker Henoc Muamba will use the Dec. 1-Jan. 31 window available for players in the option year of their contracts to work out for NFL teams.

"He'll have some NFL workouts," said Walters. "We'll have to wait and see how that all shakes down. We wish him the best. You can't wish any ill will towards a young man who has been given an opportunity to work out with an NFL team."

Walters also stressed the team will be active in free agency, in attempting to make trades, scouting U.S. talent and holding free-agent camps as part of the roster makeover.

"We will explore all those avenues to improve our roster... aggressively," Walters said. "We're exploring all options to get the best football players in here, regardless of position."

Ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 27, 2013 C1

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Updated on Wednesday, November 27, 2013 at 6:34 AM CST: Changes headline, replaces photo

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