WINNIPEG - It hasn’t quite reached Mike Kelly proportions just yet, but the movement to have Bombers general manager Joe Mack sacked is gaining some serious momentum.
Fans are furious after the Bombers got humiliated 52-0 by the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Sunday’s Labour Day Classic at Mosaic Stadium. The Bombers, who are coming off a Grey Cup appearance, are dead last in the CFL with a 2-7 record at the mid-season point, and their supporters aren’t taking that sitting down.
A Twitter account entitled “Fire Joe Mack” was created on Sunday, and there is a “Fire Joe Mack” petition on Facebook that had more than 1,400 supporters within 24 hours of its creation. Mack divided Bomber fans on Aug. 25 when he fired head coach Paul LaPolice and replaced him with defensive co-ordinator Tim Burke, but now it appears the majority want him out after Sunday’s debacle. The Bombers are 16-29 since Mack was hired as the team's GM in January 2010.
“I basically just decided that as a Bomber fan I’m extremely frustrated with the decision making that’s been taking place over the last year,” said Winnipeg musician Jack Hodge, who created the @FireJoeMack Twitter account. “The firing of Paul LaPolice was me getting over that line, and the atrocity that was on the field (Sunday) was the breaking of it.”
The Bombers didn’t make Mack or his boss, president and CEO Garth Buchko, available for comment on Monday, saying they, along with the rest of the organization, had a day off from the media. Never mind the fact that Bomber fans haven’t been this peeved since Kelly’s Bombers got blown out by the Riders in the Banjo Bowl three years ago.
Mack is at least expected to be shoved in front of the media at some point this week to answer for his team’s dismal showing in Regina on Sunday, which was Winnipeg’s eighth consecutive Labour Day Classic loss.
“I feel like the Bombers have probably the best fan base in the league,” Hodge said. “Everybody shows up week after week. But we’re all just fed up. They’ve been acting like a bunch of dumb a---s for the last two years.
“We basically just Forrest Gumped our way through 2011, and 2012 has been a complete disaster. I’m fed up, and I think everyone else is, too.”
In a rare move, Mack addressed the players in the locker-room following Sunday’s annihilation, saying he still believed in them. It’s been clear since February that some of the players don’t feel the same way about Mack. Jonathan Hefney, Deon Beasley and Brandon Stewart all took to social media to criticize Mack for some of his off-season moves, including letting Brendon LaBatte and Greg Carr leave via free agency. If that many players were willing to go public, imagine how many held their tongues.
That damaged the relationship between some players and management, and a league source said over the weekend it’s almost irreparable for some who feel they can’t discuss team issues with anyone at the management or coaching level without being criticized themselves.
Mack told the media after LaPolice’s firing that he feels there is enough talent on the roster and that the players care. Unfortunately for him, his players proved him wrong on both accounts Sunday and now the fans want action.
FACEBOOK FIGHTS BACK AGAINST MACK
More than 1,600 people have "Liked" a Facebook petition to get Bombers GM Joe Mack fired.
The shadowy group of fans behind the group responded to a few questions about just what The Fire Joe Mack Petition is trying to do, on Monday:
Why'd you decide to start the group?
The page was started for two main reasons. The first is to have a place that Bomber fans can vent besides the "Official Winnipeg Blue Bombers" Facebook page. There a lot of strongly opinionated fans — passionate fans.
The second reason is we are a community owned team and we feel we should have our say with what happens to our team. For example, the Seattle Sounders
of the MLS have adopted a method of letting their Season ticket holders have a voice. Originally taken from FC Barcelona, season ticket holders vote every four
years as to whether the general manager should stay on or be let go. This is just one of the ways the Bombers could show that they care about what the fans
think, as it is evident change is needed.
How did it come about — in a bar over last night's debacle, or is it a purely social media thing?
It’s been brewing among us administrators for quite some time. It probably all started with the Greg Carr issue, where the Eskimos cut a quick deal from under Mack. Since then, with the on-field performance being lackluster, our conversation started turning into, “I hope the board makes a move on Mack before he can make a move on LaPolice.” Our worst fear became reality last week, and Sunday’s shut out was the last straw for us, and obviously many other fans. Obviously we had no idea how big or fast it would grow. We had about one person joining per minute in about a two hour period Sunday night. It is incredible how many fans share our views and want change.
Why do you think Mack should go?
We think Mack should go because he hasn’t fulfilled his duty to his coaching staff, players and the fans. First of all, we personally believe LaPolice did quite a good job last year with the players he had. In Mack’s press conference this week announcing LaPolice’s dismissal, he said LaPolice did not bring an increase in offensive ability to the team, he was supposed to bring. While there are many components, the quarterback is the obvious leader of the offense and depending on who you ask Buck Pierce has been a so-so quarterback, but definitely not an all-star. LaPolice had to work with what the GM had given him. In February, after the first few days of free agency, Mack said: “We have a good core nucleus and so (when) everybody takes a moment to take a deep breath, they'll realize that we're still going to be competitive”. Unfortunately he was wrong, letting go of a lot of veteran players was the wrong move. Mack did not value the presence of veteran players on the team, and went with young, more inexperienced players. While this was a mistake obviously in the short run, it may come back to benefit us in the future, but there are absolutely no guarantees.
If the groundswell of popular opinion that the Bombers shouldn't have fired LaPo didn't work, why will this work?
We obviously do not know this is going to work. We believe that this group is so large partly if not mostly because of LaPolice being dismissed.
Do you have a No. 2 priority for the Bombers franchise? Asper or Buchko?
Not specifically. Our only problem with Buchko is that he is the head of the board, and is the face of the board. The board did not step up and realize that Joe Mack was an issue, before it was too late, and LaPolice was let go. His idea earlier in the summer that the media would go on a tour of the new stadium and not fish around for a specific completion date from construction workers, was not smart, as they learned from the contractor that the date had been pushed back even more. Coming from a guy who was in the media, he has not done a great job doing PR and probably needs someone new in that departement.
As fans, are the constant PR disasters statring to wear on you?
Of course, the PR disasters are wearing on us. Driving past the University on a weekly basis, it became aware to us that it was not possible that the stadium was going to be completed in time for the pre-season and probably not the regular season, even with the first 4 games on the road. We find it odd, that for some reason the organization thought they could build a stadium faster than any other stadium in North America, considering our extremes in Winnipeg climate. Also we question why the contract with the contractor has a completion date in September, when the stadium was supposed to be in use by June/July. The noise makers was a joke which seemed to be a rule drafted in an hour with no thought as to whether they should specify just home-made noisemakers and not ones they sell in their own store. It is tiring listening to the board drafting rules about noisemakers and food, and then changing their mind after the fans bring the faults of their rules to their attention. But the main problem with their PR is lack of communication with the fans. For example, after the Labour Day Classic game, was it really fair that Mr. Mack left Tim Burke to answer all the questions for that game? We don’t think so.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM TWITTER USER @GMJoeMack (a fake account):
- I recruit nothing but championship calibre talent. Any loss we have is on the coach, and the coach only
- when in doubt, blame the coach.
- I'll just smile, wave and nod though, I couldn't care less what they actually have to say.
- I think I'll be on the field again for the banjo bowl, I think it will be nice to interact with the fans
- My theory with Rookies is 100% accurate. Look at Elliott first game plays amazing and then goes downhill with more experience.
- Only reasonable solution is to get younger again. Damn, I was going to wait until we got to the grey cup again to rebuild