Play-calling predicament for LaPo

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:46 AM ET

WINNIPEG - It's a part of the job Paul LaPolice dearly loves, maybe too much.

The part that gets a ridiculous amount of scrutiny, makes geniuses of some, bums of others — and armchair coaches of everybody.

It’s also a part LaPolice may have to give up for the greater good of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

I’m talking about play calling, that on-field chess game that matches one team’s offensive guru against the opponent’s defensive brain.

Coach LaPo has hung onto the play calling like a kid clutching his new Tonka, even as he’s made the jump to the CFL head coaching ranks.

As he likes to point out, he’s not the only head man who calls plays, Marc Trestman in Montreal the best example.

Down south, the coach has mentioned Sean Payton in New Orleans.

But Payton gave up those duties this season.

And how readily Coach LaPo is willing to give them up could determine the Bombers’ next offensive co-ordinator.

Winnipeg GM Joe Mack Wednesday revealed he’s gotten involved in the team’s search for a new OC to replace Jamie Barresi, whom LaPolice fired at the end of last season.

Mack’s NFL connections have turned up a prospect or two that has him intrigued.

“I’ve gotten, much to my surprise, people that I’ve known reach out to me,” Mack said during a conference call with reporters. “There’s two or three that I really have my eyes on, that if we were able to get, people would be very pleased. It’s a compliment to the Bombers and the CFL that people of that caliber have an interest in coming up and working with us.”

The Sun has learned one person in the mix is Bomber legend Dieter Brock, the Hall of Fame quarterback who last coached in the CFL with Edmonton in 2004.

Still Winnipeg’s career passing leader, Brock, 61, has stayed involved in the game, most recently as a co-ordinator at a high school in his native Alabama.

Mack says two potential candidates, in particular, have “a real pedigree,” describing one as a former NFL player recommended to him by a current NFL coach.

“I’m very impressed,” the GM continued. “I’m going to be real anxious to sit down and talk to them in person. The people we’re talking about right now, our QB’s would be very excited.”

Mack says he and LaPolice will interview as many as four candidates in the next two weeks.

But here’s the catch: Anybody with serious credentials from down south is going to insist on calling the plays. It’s the most hands-on thing a coach can do during a game, the next best thing to being in it.

So LaPolice may have to set aside his ego — every good head coach, and plenty of bad ones, have one — and let go of the one thing he’s always loved to do.

Mack calls that “an evolving thought process” for his head coach.

“In my discussions so far with Paul, I don’t think that’s going to be an issue,” Mack said. “Because you’re right. The caliber (of the candidates) and their experience level, they’re not going to come up unless they have the ability to call plays. That’s just the way it is. Paul is open to that, to his credit.”

If he wasn’t, it would severely hamper the quality of candidate he’d attract for the co-ordinator’s job.

Until now it appeared he’d fill the role by promoting from within, O-line coach Pat DelMonaco the leading candidate. But Mack’s involvement, and the quality of people he’s talking about, have raised the stakes.

“We all acknowledge we have to get better on offence,” Mack said. “Nobody is more aware of that than Paul.”

If the canning of Barresi put the spotlight squarely on the head coach, then the hiring of a high-profile co-ordinator could diffuse it a little.

If he’s willing to let go of the chess game.

It’s your move, coach.


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