WINNIPEG - For a man whose team had just experienced two punches to the gut, followed by a mini-revolt, Joe Mack was as upbeat as they come.
A little too upbeat.
I’m not saying Rome was in flames, but there were definitely a few plumes of smoke drifting behind the Blue Bombers GM as he picked up his fiddle and launched into a rendition of Don’t Worry, Be Happy, Thursday.
The defection of all-star Canadian lineman Brendon LaBatte to the hated Green Riders?
The Bombers have “contingencies.”
The loss of towering receiver Greg Carr, Winnipeg’s best offensive player in the 2011 Grey Cup?
Import receivers are a dime a dozen.
Canadian D-lineman Donnie Oramasionwu leaving for the Eskimos, too?
Barely worth a shrug from Mr. Mack.
No, the only thing that had the Bombers architect miffed was the way a few players had the audacity to criticize the team’s free-agent approach, whatever it is.
Defensive back Deon Beasley called the Bombers “cheap,” using Twitter to say “SOMEONE needs to get the front office right.”
Fellow DB Jonathan Hefney had the gall to suggest every other CFL team seems to be getting better except his.
“My whole mood is destroyed right now,” Hefney tweeted, while suggesting the Bombers were “really F-ing up.”
And we thought Odell Willis was a little loose with the thumbs.
“Probably those comments are the most disappointing thing for me,” Mack said. “Because we talk about being a team, and those two comments aren’t team oriented.
“They’re unprofessional and uncalled for. It’s not acceptable. You can’t be taking a shot ... that’s something that I will address.”
By the end of the day, Beasley and Hefney had tweeted apologies.
And they were wrong to do what they did.
But they’re only reflecting the same frustration felt by fans wondering what’s happening to their East Division champs.
For them, getting to the Grey Cup, and losing, was supposed to be the first step toward ending a championship drought that’s hit a modern-day record 21 years.
Fixing the league’s second-worst passing attack was Job 1 this off-season. Instead, the Bombers lose their best O-lineman and a receiver that puts fear into enemy defenders with his size, alone.
Yet Mack has the temerity to suggest his offence hasn’t taken a step back.
“We have all our quarterbacks back,” he said, pulling out his favourite free-agent mantra. “We’re as good, if not better, potentially, going into camp.”
I’m not saying the Bombers could have won the LaBatte sweepstakes if they’d tried harder. After all, the guy has personal reasons for moving to Regina.
And I’m not saying Mack can’t replace Carr. He did find T.J. Harris and Clarence Denmark.
But I do get the sense our GM feels he’s bulletproof, that losing players is no big deal — he’ll just find more. The parts are interchangeable, like cardboard pieces in a puzzle.
With price tags attached.
“It’s kind of like a mosaic,” Mack said. “Sometimes if this piece of a mosaic gets too big, he doesn’t fit anymore.”
Mack doesn’t like to be critiqued, either. Not by lowly members of the media, the public or his players.
Last year at this time, he noted we were all “in a bit of a tizzy” over his lack of signing big-name free agents, yet his team made the Grey Cup game.
As for the players who dared question the boss, look out.
“When they become general manager of a football team, they can make those decisions,” Mack said, adding he didn’t care what they thought of his strategy.
Then this: “There will also be a fair amount of talent at defensive back next year.”
Mr. Mack is talking a helluva game these days.
Be interesting to see if he can back it up.