Bombers GM backs his coach

Blue Bombers GM Joe Mack is not happy with his team’s 2-6 record, but he believes the tough start...

Blue Bombers GM Joe Mack is not happy with his team’s 2-6 record, but he believes the tough start to the season isn’t all that surprising for a variety of reasons. (BRIAN DONOGH/QMI Agency)

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:12 AM ET

Joe Mack is not about to smack the panic button.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers GM is not happy with his team’s 2-6 record, but he believes the tough start to the season isn’t all that surprising for a variety of reasons.

“Not to make excuses, but it is a new staff,” Mack said Sunday. “Paul (LaPolice) is still getting acclimated to being a head coach, we have a lot of new players, and we’ve had a lot of injuries.

“So when you try to analyze all that, although you don’t want to make excuses, you can see why we’ve had some issues.”

Mack, who returned to the CFL this year after more than two decades away, supports the coaching job that LaPolice has done so far in his rookie campaign.

“I’m happy with what Paul has done and how he has conducted himself,” Mack said. “When I look at his overall preparation, when I look at his temperament, when I look at how he interacts with the staff and the players, he’s doing a good job on all those accounts.

“I have no reason to believe that we’re not going to turn it around and Paul’s going to end up being a really good coach for us.”

Mack’s mission since taking over in late January was to make the Bombers younger, and that he has done. He released several older veterans while stocking the roster with young talent. Some of the players came right out of U.S. colleges.

Some believe Winnipeg’s overall talent base isn’t good enough, but Mack believes the team wouldn’t have a better record had he kept some of the more experienced talent around.

“I tried to be honestly analytical with the decisions that I’ve been directly involved with, and I think we made the right choices,” he said. “We did pretty extensive research on the players that we let go, the older players, and I really thought they were on the downward slide.

“So I don’t know what more we would’ve accomplished by going that direction again. I knew there would be some early growing pains going along with younger guys.”

Injuries certainly have not helped Winnipeg’s cause. No. 1 quarterback Buck Pierce has missed four games and come out of two others due to a sprained right knee.

Rookie phenom Terence Jeffers-Harris has missed three games with a high ankle sprain and will be out for at least a few more.

When Luke Fritz went down in the first quarter of Thursday’s 39-17 loss to the Montreal Alouettes, his replacement, Steve Morley, was essentially the fourth-string left tackle after Glenn January (pectoral), Andre Douglas (knee) and Fritz (hamstring).

“Poor Steve Morley has to go out and play left tackle,” Mack said. “That obviously handcuffs you a little bit.”

All told, the Bombers have lost 70 man games due to injury through eight weeks.

“When we get some of those players back, that’ll be a boost for us,” Mack said.

Players returning from sick bay are essentially the best reinforcements the Bombers are going to get this season.

Mack, director of player personnel Ken Moll and several part-time scouts are scouring between 26 and 30 NFL camps for the Bombers, but anyone they find probably won’t make an impact until next season at the earliest.

“You have to be careful about thinking how many players you can bring in to really help upgrade yourself from the NFL,” Mack said.

Mack said it’s up to the import rookies to learn as much about the Canadian game as quickly as they can and for everyone to take their level of play up a notch.

He feels there is no area of the club that needs a serious talent upgrade.

“We need to upgrade the consistency of the play more than anything,” he said. “We’re pretty competitive from a talent standpoint. Obviously we’d like to get a lot of our starters back. That’d be a big plus.”

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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