Time for Bombers to choose right coach

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:36 PM ET

As Winnipeg Blue Bombers rookie GM Joe Mack ponders the most important decision he’ll make — the hiring of a head coach — we humbly offer three words of advice.

Get it right.

I don’t pretend to speak for all Bomber fans, but I know there’s a large segment that’s fed up with the constant changes in the head coach’s chair.

Revolving doors may work for department stores, but they get awful tiresome in the front office of sports franchises.

In the last decade the Bombers have actually done better than some, as Doug Berry lasted three seasons (2006-08), Dave Ritchie more than five (1999-04).

But we also saw Jim Daley go about a year and a half (2004-05), and we don’t need to remind you how short Mike Kelly’s tenure was.

So I guess you could say this organization is batting .500 over the last 10 years when it comes to finding a head coach with any kind of staying power.

Better than the CFL’s current punch line, the Toronto Argonauts — the Argos are currently looking for their fifth coach in the last four years — but still not good enough.

If Mack is going to bring professionalism back to the Bombers, as board members like Paul Robson insist he will, then it starts here, with a solid hire.

We’re told he’s down to Greg Marshall and Paul LaPolice, both former Winnipeg assistants who work in Hamilton and Saskatchewan, respectively, but who’ve never been head coaches in the CFL.

Would either be a gamble? You bet, Marshall less so because his body of CFL work covers the last 16 years.

The good news: Mack tells us he’s not just looking to plug the hole with a temp until he has time to find a long-term solution to that niggling, 19-year Grey Cup drought.

He wants to find Mr. Right, now.

“I’m looking for somebody to be a part of the process to make an elite organization,” Mack told the Sun. “I hope we’re all standing there in maybe 10, 12, 15 years from now and inducting that head coach into the Winnipeg Hall of Fame. That would be the dream. I’m looking for somebody to establish something that’s going to be a long-term success story.”

The key qualities, he says, are consistency and integrity, not to mention the ability to put a competitive team on the field, year after year.

That, of course, takes help. And that’s where Mack, the GM, can go a long way to validating his selection as head coach by supplying him with the talent to get the job done.

Let’s face it, Kelly, as the pseudo-GM, didn’t exactly supply Kelly, the coach, with a full tool box.

After picking his coach, Job 2 for Mack is finding a quarterback.

“I’m going to spend a lot of time evaluating,” Mack said. “And you have to have some depth there, too, because you don’t want your whole season to go down the drain because of an injury to a starter.”

Easy to say, harder to do.

Just like finding the right coach.

But it’s what Mack is getting paid good money to do.

Of course, the last guy to make the decision got paid good money, too (hello, Lyle Bauer) and we all know how that turned out.

While Mack had nothing to do with the Bombers at the time, he knows that mistake cranks up the urgency for him to get this one right.

It’s only the most important decision he’ll make.

“You bet,” Mack said. “Obviously, because of the recent history with Winnipeg, you really hope you get some continuity and stability with that position. There are no guarantees, obviously. You just try to connect as many dots as you can and hope you made the right decision.”

Given what we know, I’d connect these dots, ASAP: G-r-e-g M-a-r-s-h-a-l-l.

Before the Argos stumble to the same conclusion.


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