Paopao under pressure

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

CALGARY -- Joe Paopao will be fighting for more than a win tonight at McMahon Stadium. He might also be battling for his job.

The buzz around the CFL is that Paopao and other members of his staff could be fired if the 4-8 Renegades lose to the 2-10 Calgary Stampeders.

"I don't think about those things," the Renegades coach said yesterday. "It's just a sign of the times. There's always expectation to win in pro sports."

The Renegades have lost five straight and eight of their last nine games, a slump that prompted president Brad Watters to issue a win-or-else ultimatum following a 31-13 loss to B.C. last week -- a threat that included coaching changes.

Watters reiterated those comments yesterday, calling tonight's game the most pivotal in franchise history, but would not comment on the coaching situation.

"We just need to win,'' Watters said. ''If we win, then maybe we can go to Saskatchewan and win there too, and all of a sudden we have a chance to get into the playoffs."

Watters' comments have generated discussion in the Renegades locker room about the future of the coaching staff.

HUDSON BACKS COACH

"Yeah, some guys are talking about it. We really love these coaches and I wouldn't want to play for anybody else," said centre George Hudson. "I'm one of those guys who would follow Joe anywhere. I don't want to lose him. I think he's a great coach.

"Stuff just happened this season. It's bad timing, all the injuries we've had," he said. "We just want to come out here and start winning and make the playoffs, so it's not even an issue for him anymore."

Paopao said yesterday that the club has placed 22 players on the injured list this year, a very high number.

"We play for him every game, no matter what our record is," said running back Josh Ranek. "That's what we'll focus on. We come out and we play for each other and we play for our head coach.

"He's always honest with us, that's Joe's biggest thing. He doesn't tell you one thing and then the next thing totally go 180 on you. If you're not performing well, he'll let you know. If you are, he'll let you know. If something needs to be changed, he'll let you know."

Paopao admitted yesterday that he spoke to the team about Watters' recent comments.

"The owners can say what they want. They're the ones that sign the cheques and spend the money. That's his right," Paopao said. "If we were 9-0, they wouldn't be saying that.

"I told the players that (Watters) doesn't play and he doesn't coach. We don't let those things be a distraction. If we do, our focus is not where it's supposed to be."

On top of all this, Paopao is fighting a nasty flu. After missing Wednesday's practice so he could rest at home, Paopao took a morning flight out of Ottawa with the team, but considered a late evening alternative that would have provided extra recuperation time.

'STAY POSITIVE'

Asked if the flu was brought on by job-related stress, Paopao replied, "Are you kidding me? I've been in this business for 27 years. You get a cold. You get a flu. If it was stress, I'd have one every week then, and any coach for that matter.

"We need to stay positive and keep working," he said. "I'm okay. We've done good things this year, but not enough of them."

barre.campbell@ott.sunpub.com 


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