Say it ain't so, Joe

The Renegades' Kai Ellis signs a shirt for teammate Pat Woodcock while cleaning out their lockers...

The Renegades' Kai Ellis signs a shirt for teammate Pat Woodcock while cleaning out their lockers yesterday at Frank Clair Stadium. The Renegades completed a disappointing season with a 5-13 record. (Ottawa Sun/Jason Ransom)

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:09 AM ET

Dressed in the same flowery Hawaiian shirt he wore on the first day of camp six months earlier, the Throwin' Samoan yesterday faced the Ottawa media for the last time this season.

It was also maybe the last time -- as wrong as that would be.

"My wife wants me to rake the leaves," Joe Paopao said when asked the obligatory "what now?" questions due the Renegades coach the day after a disappointing loss in the final game of a disappointing season. "There's three layers of the suckers. I dread that.

"It's funny but it's not funny. That's why I'm stalling here at the office."

There's another reason, of course. Paopao didn't want to leave because he's not sure how many more times he'll be back. He didn't want to go home because his job on Bank St. is not done. He knows he can make the Renegades winners and wants one more year to prove it.

Today, he'll convey that message to Renegades president Brad Watters and whichever other of the team's owners sit in on a scheduled meeting at Frank Clair Stadium. If any member of the club's brain trust asked any of the players -- or anyone else in the CFL familiar with both Paopao's football smarts and how the man works -- they'd hear that he deserves another chance.

Yet, there's a chance Paopao will be dismissed. Under the current, rather inhumane plan, no official announcement will be made before the end of the month. Perhaps ownership wants to sort itself out first, as a split of majority shareholders Randy Gillies and Bill Smith still appears imminent, with one buying the other one out.

Either way, Paopao should be re-signed. Bringing him back is the right thing to do.

Yes, the Renegades failed to meet their goal of reaching the playoffs, winning just five games, after taking four in Year 1 and seven in Year 2.

But 2004 was an aberration, a fluke.

For one thing, starting QB Kerry Joseph missed six games to injuries and hobbled his way through at least a couple more because his two backups were hurt.

RASH OF INJURIES

The most telling fact is this: 12 players who started in Week 1's impressive victory in Winnipeg were injured and watched the season finale from the sidelines. That's right, a dozen players, almost a third of the active roster. Not even the Argos could buy their way out of that jam.

Like the leaves problem, funny but not funny.

"You've gotta laugh or it's going to eat you up," said Paopao. "Hey, it's done."

The Renegades should have spent some extra money to bring in players (and keep D.J. Flick and John Grace) for a season in which they planned on contending for a Grey Cup to be hoisted in their own backyard.

They should have signed an American offensive lineman to replace Seth Dittman.

They should have found, or traded for, a bigger receiver and some more size on the defensive line.

Paopao recognizes all the "shoulduvs", as does GM (in title) Eric Tillman, who should also be retained, as he remains one of the best-connected men in the business.

Yesterday, Paopao acknowledged the difficulties of one individual coaching as well as recruiting players. He needs a Tillman, to be sure.

Paopao also failed to use as an excuse the fact his team was the only one in the East to recognize the salary guidelines issued by the CFL.

"We got a cap," he said. "In fairness to (the owners), when you see a red light, you stop, you don't slow down. We have rules. You try to stay within the confines. There's nothing wrong with that, in my mind. You can't do anything about what other people do."

Paopao will talk with his agent, Dan Lawson, about his options, which Watters says should include listening to offers from other clubs. It's Paopao's desire to remain a head coach, however, and he would like to do that here.

'FELL SHORT'

"You have to look at both sides of the lines. It's an area we need to improve on," he said. "We also have to look at the kicking game. We need to look at why we fell short and how to improve.

"But it's hard to move forward when you're not sure what your status is."

And the right thing would be to clear that up today.

"The ball is in the administration's court," said Paopao.

Hope the Renegades don't fumble this one.


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