'Give them a chance'

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:01 AM ET

A year ago, he was cruelly made to twist in the wind for months after the season had ended while Brad Watters, Randy Gillies and Bill Smith staged a marathon wrestling session over a decision on their team and his future.

This time around, the winds of change are blowing Joe Paopao out the door, and the howling was heard too soon considering he and his staff still have today's 2005 finale against the Toronto Argos to work. That's hardly fair either, but, like the guy who opts for euthanasia over torture, the outgoing Renegades coach/GM prefers it this way.

"I just know that's something they wanted to do, but more importantly, I concurred with, I'm in concert with that," Paopao said -- presiding over his last pre-game press conference in the same Frank Clair Stadium meeting room that will be used to introduce John Jenkins as the new head coach 72 hours later -- when asked about ownership's call to go in a different direction.

"I asked that they make a smooth and quick transition. They need to move forward. The press conference Monday ... to me, the timing is right."

Yesterday's gathering, meanwhile, was absolutely funeral-like. Standing in the back of a room that is normally almost barren for such events were assistant coaches Greg Marshall and Tommy Condell, as well as director of football administration Robin MacDougall. Like most of the football operations staff, they were told Thursday they wouldn't be back next season.

Also there was Chris McRobbie, who was dismissed as director of player personnel months ago, but has curiously continued to help out the coaches, as well as Paopao's wife Dottie.

But the long faces were also worn by members of the media.

BETTER PERSON

Ottawa has seen much incompetence and losing in its football teams the past 30 years, and with a 22-49 record, the only coach the Renegades have ever known is at least guilty of the latter. But it's also hard to imagine there's ever been a better and more caring person to sit in the chair Paopao is vacating.

In his exit speech, he went out with total class and dignity. He threw "bouquets and thank yous" to the team's original and current owners, his past and present players and coaches, former GM Eric Tillman, suppliers, vendors, sponsors, friends, MacDougall, Dottie, the media and even Mayor Bob Chiarelli and city councillors.

"To our fans, thank you," said Paopao. "It hasn't been easy for you. I know that you showed up and supported this team ... I've been in this league for 28 years, to see more than 20,000-plus people come in, day in and day out, whether its raining or not, I thank you."

In the ultimate display of his character, Paopao tried to pave a path for his successor.

"I ask the media that you help support the incoming staff and players to this organization," he said.

"Hey, life isn't perfect. Everybody needs a hand, and everybody needs support. I ask that you give them a chance."

SOUND PRINCIPLES

Paopao referred to the principles of life he was taught by his parents, like "having good manners, acting like a man, being responsible."

He showed all of the above, particularly in shooting down a popular theory that would lessen his blame.

"Was I provided with players enough to win? Yes," said Paopao. "Once upon a time we were 5-3 with these guys.

"That's my responsibility."

What leads to his termination is an inability to win in the second half of the season. Last year, injuries were to blame for a 2-13 finish. This season, that crutch doesn't exist. And reasons for them losing eight of their last nine aren't so obvious, although lack of enough desire would seem to be obvious.

Paopao rejects that notion.

"The one thing I've always believed in ... effort is something we never compromise," he said.

"We may come up short in games, some games it looks like we're never in, but from a standpoint of playing like a team should, I've always thought that was one of our signatures."

Paopao's own signature was in his attire.

"I wear this Aloha shirt because it is symbolic of who I am," he said. "For a Polynesian man, we wear this at all occasions, to celebrate life. At weddings, at funerals ... even when you're going out on a date. It says I'm ready to enjoy, and take on whatever comes before me.

"It hasn't been easy, but you know what guys, I'll be up front with you. I wouldn't trade the last four years for anything. It's helped redefine me at times, helped develop tougher skin and have a better understanding of how things work at the pro level. More importantly, I just want to say a word of thank you."

Renegades fans should say thank you back today. An Aloha shirt might be inappropriate, given the expected weather conditions, but a few standing ovations for Joe Paopao would be fitting.

don.brennan@ott.sunpub.com


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