It's Joe time for 'Gades

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:33 PM ET

For what was likely his second-last pre-game press conference as coach of the Renegades, Joe Paopao arrived wearing a whistle and a smile.

Slipping into a seat before the largest such media gathering of the season, he released the latter only to blow the former, interrupting all other conversations in the process.

"Let's go, let's go," Paopao barked, before flashing the trademark, squinty-eyed grin again.

What, you expected doom and gloom from a man whose fate had all but been spelled out in that morning's dailies? Or maybe he hadn't read that his U.S. scouting director, John Jenkins, had been caught offering up support jobs by telling people he was "taking over in Ottawa" next season?

"I read it," Paopao said. "I'm not going to comment ... I think it's inappropriate for me at this time. Our focus is on the game and that's where it should be. How this got leaked out, it's unfair to me at this time, I think, but I'll be okay."

Yes, Paopao will be fine.

If his Renegades win their final two games -- starting today against the Alouettes -- they will be a B.C. victory over Saskatchewan from making the playoffs for the first time. They will also make Paopao almost $230,000 as ownership will be forced to pick up the option year of his contract.

There's an atom of a chance Paopao could still be the Renegades' coach in 2006. If they beat Montreal then Toronto next week, and sneak into the playoffs, then make some noise when they get there ... or mission impossible for a team that has lost seven of its last eight to keep with the disturbing pattern that saw it drop 13 of its final 15 a year ago.

There are also those who believe Paopao could tell the Gliebermans so long even if they do ask him back. The rumour mill has him with three potential options: Either as offensive co-ordinator in Hamilton or (as Marcel Bellefeuille's replacement) in Saskatchewan or as the new coach of the Als. Howdoyalikethatone, eh? Rumblings are that the dissatisfaction of having just a single Grey Cup title to show for the last 30 years will prompt Montreal to ditch "The Don" Matthews should the Als fall short of claiming a championship next month.

So by winning today, the Renegades could not only keep alive their own playoff hopes and Paopao's chances of taking almost a quarter-mil from Bernie Glieberman in 2006, but also possibly help "Pops" get a sweet job directly under Jim Popp.

Either way, Jenkins is lined up to take over in Ottawa, as he says. And among the numerous player and coaching changes scheduled with that, it means Greg Marshall will also be gone and the Renegades will hire their fifth defensive co-ordinator in five years.

In the meantime, Paopao is dealing purely with the present. After yesterday's walk-through, he had the players line up along the 45-yard stripe and get on one knee as he delivered the message that "it's all on the line, now."

For the 'Gades, the sudden death playoffs have begun.

"I don't want them to play for me, I want them to play for themselves," said Paopao. "When they do well, we'll do well.

"It's unfortunate my personal contract got out in the public, I didn't appreciate that. But I don't let it affect me. The word focus is what it means. Our job is to position ourselves so that next week's game has meaning. It's all or nothing now."

don.brennan@ott.sunpub.com 


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