The Winnipeg Blue Bombers fired head coach Paul LaPolice on Saturday, just nine months after he guided the team to the Grey Cup.
Defensive co-ordinator Tim Burke takes over effective immediately.
“This was an extremely difficult decision to make especially when dealing with the kind of quality individual as Paul is,” Bombers GM Joe Mack said in a press release. “As the season has progressed, and looking back on how we struggled throughout the second half of the year in 2011, we have become increasingly concerned with the direction of our club and felt this was in the best interest of our entire organization. Our commitment to winning hasn’t changed and this decision was made in order to get our team back on track.”
The Bombers are 5-13 since starting the 2011 season with a 7-1 record. LaPolice, along with general manager Joe Mack, signed a three-year contract extension before the season began, but the Bombers fell to 2-6 with Friday’s 20-17 loss to the B.C. Lions.
There is pressure on the Bombers to put a winning product on the field. They are moving into Investors Group Field next year, and they have to repay an $85 million loan over 40 years. Despite the losing, there was a sellout crowd at Friday’s game and it gave the team a hand as it left the field.
As much as LaPolice had trouble motivating the troops and dealing with in-game decisions, the roster Mack gave him this season was doomed for failure. Mack didn’t sign any Canadian veterans and loaded the roster with young talent, which is a big reason for the team’s 2-6 mark this season.
This isn’t the first time the Bombers have canned a coach after signing him to an extension. They inked Doug Berry to a three-year deal before the 2008 season and canned him after the campaign. They also fired Mike Kelly in December 2009 after just one season at the helm.
Despite the 2-6 record, the Bombers are only two points out of a playoff spot in the East Division.