Renegades say Joe won't go

Paopao

Paopao

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:38 AM ET

There is no threat of Joe Paopao being replaced as coach of the Renegades before the season ends. In fact, there really never was, according to team president Brad Watters.

Yesterday, Watters expressed amazement at how a "Joe witch hunt" was contrived from comments he made when questioning the Renegades' defensive system following a 57-16 pounding in Edmonton Aug. 29.

"I never said the head coach was in jeopardy," Watters said. "My biggest question three weeks ago was more in line with our defence. I asked Joe if the system was working at that point, and if not, what could we do to solve the problem.

"We had just given up (57) points and we couldn't stop a soul. That night I asked Joe if the system was working, and to his credit, he said 'we're going to make it work.'

"Joe was always the type you would stick with through the year, at least."

Asked if he ever told Paopao that, Watters replied: "I've said to Joe all along .... we have an understanding. He knows he's okay."

Watters did admit the Renegades' summer swoon did put on hold potential contract extension talks with Paopao -- who is in the final season of a three year deal -- fearing "we would get massacred" by the public and media for starting negotiations when the team was piling up losses.

Such conversations will be held at the end of the season, one way or the other, and Paopao could very well be re-signed.

"Joe's got a job to do," said Watters. "We'll finish the season out and we'll go from there."

How long that season lasts will be determined by Ottawa's final five games. The Renegades (5-8) are one point behind Hamilton and three back of Toronto in the East. They can make the playoffs by finishing ahead of both, or just one of their division rivals and one of Saskatchewan (5-8) and Winnipeg (6-7).

Should four teams from the West finish with better records than two teams in the East, the crossover format will kick into effect.

The Renegades have won just two of their past 10 games -- both over the 2-11 Stampeders and by a grand total of three points -- but their spirits have been buoyed by last Friday's come-from-behind 26-24 victory in Calgary.

As far as their playoff hopes go, their focus is on getting past Hamilton and/or Toronto and not sneaking in through the back, West-Division, door.

Their best bet is in slipping past the Ticats, with whom they still have two more games. They also have a home-and-away series with the Roughriders their next two scheduled dates, beginning Sunday in Regina. Ottawa's fifth game is in Montreal on Oct. 23.

The Ticats have the toughest schedule, with games against Edmonton, Winnipeg and Toronto left to go along with their pair vs. the Renegades.

The Argos, who have a game in hand on both division rivals, still have a pair left with Calgary, along with battles against Edmonton, B.C., Montreal and Hamilton.

Renegades players had yesterday off (plus today) while Paopao was left to answer questions about his job security.

"Some things I can control, and some things I can't," he said. "The same thing happened with (former Senators coach) Jacques (Martin) last year ... it seems the guy was always on a carousel. It's the nature of our business. As long as we win, it's the answer to a lot of things. Maybe not long term, but short term.

"I'm committed to coaching 18 games. Wherever it goes from there, so be it."

Asked if he's aware of the overflow of support from his players -- unusual in that every single one of them that's asked talk about Paopao being the best coach they've ever played for and how fond they are of him -- he feigned surprise.

"Really?" he said. "It's called respect. It's how you treat people. You do a lot of work behind closed doors ... when you have to rip somebody you do it there."

Over his shoulder, construction on Grey Cup seats continued in the east end zone, and Paopao spoke of how the team still has hope of playing in the championship game Nov. 21.

Watters says 11,000 tickets are still available for purchase, but only at the $199 price point as all tickets in the original stadium have already been grabbed.

"We think there will still be a big push from Montreal," he said. "But we're trying to convince people from Ottawa if they want to get tickets to the game, now is the time to do it."

don.brennan@ott.sunpub.com


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