Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Writing was on the wall

Mack did his best with Bombers, but he just couldn't get the job done

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Even if the Free Press had not reported on Thursday that Joe Mack's job was hanging by a thread, on some level, the GM had to know the call was coming.

When it did, it came on Friday morning from Wade Miller, freshly installed as the Bombers' acting CEO, and the conversation was courteous.

"He was very supportive, and said he wishes the best for this football club, and this organization, and believes it's close to turning," Miller said. "He did his best and worked his hardest every day."

'(Joe Mack) was very supportive, and said he wishes the best for this football club, and this organization, and believes it's close to turning. He did his best and worked his hardest every day'

-- acting Blue Bombers CEO Wade Miller

Mack was unavailable for comment Friday.

Despite Mack's dismal results -- the Bombers went 21-39 between when he took the GM's chair and when he was canned -- few doubt that he genuinely cared for the team.

The longtime NFL exec did leave a de facto retirement from pro football to take the Bombers gig before the 2010 season, drawn to return to the place started his pro career in 1984, the friends he still had in Winnipeg and the CFL's more family-friendly quality of life.

Shambles

But the team was in a shambles, and Mack never found a way to get it straight. The Bombers did go to the Grey Cup in 2011, largely on the back of a defence that was galvanized by the sudden death of beloved coach Richard Harris, and Mack landed some solid talents: free agents Chris Matthews and Bryant Turner and draftee Henoc Muamba arrived under his watch.

Outside of those hits, though, Mack struggled to shore up the architecture of an ailing team. When he somehow survived 2012's miserable season, he told then-CEO Garth Buchko that he would "fix it" in regards to the quarterback question.

But he passed on several opportunities to bring in productive arms. Instead, the Bombers started 2013 with talented but oft-battered pivot Buck Pierce, untested backup Justin Goltz, and a raw rookie in Max Hall.

When that group led the Bombers to a dismal 1-5 start, the writing was on the wall. On Friday, fans who had long clamoured for his release finally got their day -- a Twitter account for the fan campaign @FireJoeMack happily announced its rebranding as @BombersJetsTalk -- and with that, the Joe Mack era came to an end, leaving a team not enough advanced from how it began.

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 10, 2013 C2

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