Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice says talk his job could be on the line when the Bombers face the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Canad Inns Stadium Thursday evening is premature.
LaPolice seemed to have a detailed list of reasons why he shouldn't be fired already prepared when he was asked during his coach's pre-game news conference Wednesday morning if he felt the future of his job could depend on tonight's outcome.
"I'm preparing to win a football game," LaPolice replied. "We're one-third through our season. We've had some challenges for the first third of our season. There's still 12 football games to play. No one in the CFL has established themselves in the league.
"We are certainly not happy in how we are playing. We need to get better and I think we will. I'm concerned about winning a football game. I think sometimes people gloom and doom very much. Things out of my control are out of my control. We've got a lot of football left to be played."
LaPolice is in his third season as the head coach of the Bombers and signed a contract extension in the off-season after leading his team to a Grey Cup appearance in 2011.
But his club has stumbled to a 1-5 start this season and LaPolice's win-loss record as Winnipeg's head coach is now 15-27.
With a fresh contract extension in his pocket, the Bombers board might be reluctant to part so soon with their head coach, although it bears noting the Saskatchewan Roughriders fired head coach Greg Marshall last August in what was Marshall's first year of a three-year contract. Marshall's Riders were 1-7 at the time.
There are also off-field considerations in play right now, as dissatisfaction with the club's losing skid is beginning to show up at the ticket window. With just 26,000 tickets sold as of Wednesday for tonight's contest, it will take a huge walk-up today -- capacity is 29,533 -- to avoid having the club's record run of nine straight regular-season sellouts snapped.
Should it come to firing, the leading contender to replace LaPolice -- at least on an interim basis -- would clearly be Bombers defensive co-ordinator Tim Burke, who narrowly lost out in the competiton for the Hamilton head coaching job last winter to current Ticats boss George Cortez.
LaPolice was asked if he was frustrated to be getting asked questions about his job security so soon after leading his team to a Grey Cup.
"Yeah, I think sometimes that's what people... think is the news and the most important thing. I think there's a lot of football left. I think we had to overcome some challenges early in the season and we'll do our best to fix (those) at the end of the year.
"So yeah, I think sometimes it can be a negative, frustrating thing."
Veteran offensive lineman Steve Morley said he's trying not to think about his coach's job security -- or anyone else's -- this week. But Morley says he also has no doubt whatsoever about how high the stakes are tonight.
"You never want to think about guys getting fired or losing their jobs," said Morley, "but we definitely have to win. In my opinion, yes, it's a must-win."
Care to consider what the consequences will be if you don't win over Hamilton? "Not really," said Morley. "Not really."
Running back Chad Simpson -- who, as an ex-NFLer with a Super Bowl appearance, knows something about high-stakes football games -- says he thinks a lot of jobs are on the line whether Winnipeg wins or loses Thursday.
"There's going to be changes regardless," said Simpson, "when you're losing this deep into the season."