Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Walters in charge... for now

Acting CEO names interim GM, insists he has full control of football ops

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True story:

It's spring of 2010 and the missus and I are selling our house in River Heights when the agent calls to report we have an offer.

"Yeah," the agent says, "the buyer apparently just got hired by the Bombers as some kind of new assistant coach."

The missus doesn't miss a beat. "A coach for the Bombers? Someone should tell him he might want to rent instead of buying."


It was funny, of course, because it was true. With Mike Kelly and much of the previous Bombers coaching staff fired after just one disastrous 2009 season, the life expectancy of a newly hired Bombers coach in the spring of 2010 was something like that of a mosquito.

Yeah, well -- who's laughing now.

Because three years later, not only does Kyle Walters still own a house that is these days worth much more than he paid me, he is also the new acting-general manager of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The Bombers confirmed on Tuesday what everyone had been expecting since Joe Mack was fired last week -- that Walters would be elevated from his previous assistant-GM position to take on the interim-GM duties at least through the conclusion of the 2013 season.

And so with that, a guy who got his first professional coaching job when the Bombers hired him in 2010 to run their special teams is just three seasons later running the club's entire football operations.

And make no mistake, Walters is running the show -- at least according to newly installed acting CEO Wade Miller, who unveiled Walters as the team's new acting-GM at a news conference at Investors Group Field Tuesday morning.

Miller -- who replaces former CEO Garth Buchko, who was also fired last week -- was grilled aggressively on Tuesday by reporters who wanted to know if the very active role Miller took over the weekend in hiring Marcel Bellefeuille as a new offensive consultant was indicative of a micro-managing approach Miller intends to take in football operations.

"Absolutely not -- that's not my role," said Miller. "That's for the head coach and Kyle to decide."

If that's true, that's a great leap of faith in Tim Burke, who is still effectively in his rookie season as a head coach, and Walters, who had zero front office experience when he was promoted last winter to assistant-GM and director of Canadian scouting.

But while he's green as grass -- and greener than the neglected lawn I turned over to him -- big things are expected of Walters. While he has received no guarantees he will continue to occupy the GM's office beyond the end of this season -- Miller said Tuesday the club will conduct an "exhaustive" search for candidates at the end of the year -- Walters' future as a Bombers employee of some kind is secure.

"No matter where we go with this search," said Miller, "(Walters) will be a part of this organization going forward and start providing some stability in the football operations."

It's a monument to just how chaotic the Bombers organization has become in recent years that three-year employees are now held up as models of stability upon which to build. But that's what you get with a team that, if things don't turn around soon, will soon be paying more people not to work for them (hello Paul LaPolice, Buchko, Mack et al) then they are paying those who actually still do work for the team.

Is Walters the guy to turn around this sorry 1-5 Bombers ship? Who knows anymore?

His supporters point to his long experience in Canadian university football -- Walters was the head coach of the Guelph Gryphons when the Bombers hired him -- as a big plus for a team that struggled under Mack to find good Canadian talent.

The story goes that Mack ignored a lot of solid advice from Walters in recent years and the Bombers would be a lot better off today if Mack had only listened more closely to Walters when it came to the picks the team made in the last couple CFL entry drafts.

As for negotiating contracts, I can tell you this: At a time in 2010 when every house seller was getting more than their list price, Walters actually convinced me to take less than I was asking for that house I had for sale. Point to him.

Of course, he's also had to spend the past three years undoing my half-ass renovations to the place, so I think we're even.

Whatever the case, Walters has now got the keys to a CFL team to go along with the keys to that house. And this one's a real fixer-upper.

Today's Bomber Report D3

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 14, 2013 D1


Updated on Wednesday, August 14, 2013 at 6:54 AM CDT: Replaces photo, fixes headline, adds video

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