Blue Bombers should give Joe Mack some leeway

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:41 AM ET

WINNIPEG - He's the one who introduced Joe Mack to the rest of us back on Jan. 22, 2010, singing the praises of the new Blue Bombers general manager.

"The professionalism that Joe Mack is going to bring to this organization is going to be exceptional," old No. 71, Bomber great Joe Poplawski, said at the time.

And what does Joe Pop think now?

First, a look back.

It was Poplawski and fellow board member Paul Robson who were instrumental in bringing Mack back to Winnipeg.

They had a connection, after all: Robson was the GM, Poplawski the star Canadian receiver and Mack the player personnel boss when the Bombers ended their last 21-year championship drought, in 1984.

A little less than three years ago, the team mired in another long famine, Robson, aka Mad Dog, and Joe Pop wound up on the search committee to find a new GM, and voila -- they dusted off Mack and pulled him back into three-down football after a 23-year hiatus in the States.

"We're going to get back to Blue Bomber football," Robson said that day.

Yep, Blue Bomber football, all right.

A record of 17-30, including playoffs. Two out of three seasons (barring a miracle turnaround) out of the playoffs. A lack of discipline by players, whether criticizing management in the off-season or taking too many penalties. An exodus of free agents.

And now the fourth-worst loss in the franchise's 82-year history.

Anyone for another two decades of futility in blue and gold?

At this rate, that's what we're going to get.

Because that wasn't simply a step back in Regina, it was a new low point in a drought that's obviously going to reach a record 22 years.

Not even the Jeff Reinebold or Mike Kelly eras produced a decision so vile, so void of anything hopeful, as Sunday's 52-point shutout.

I guess Coach LaPo wasn't the entire problem, after all.

After firing his head coach a week earlier, Mack asked the players if he had their attention.

We assume they have his, now.

I don't know if a team can actually play to have its GM fired. That seems a bit of a stretch.

But it can show evidence of its belief, or lack thereof, in the direction of its front office. And watching Sunday made me suspect not even the water boy believes anymore.

Which brings me back to those two board members on the search committee.

Neither Robson nor Joe Pop are on the board, anymore, but I thought they should answer to the hiring.

Robson wouldn't call me back.

The Polish Prince, though, did, and admits what he saw on Sunday reminded him of the worst of the Reinebold years.

"What's it like in that dressing room?" Joe Pop wondered. "If they've got issues in that dressing room, that could lead to that score."

But what about issues in the front office?

Poplawski, in the insurance industry, says he probably gets four or five calls a day about the Bombers. His clients want to talk 75%football, 25% business.

But nobody had asked him about his part in hiring Mack.

Until I called.

"I would not quit on this team as a fan," Poplawski said. "I'm not quitting on them as an alumnus.

"I believe Joe Mack is a smart man. I don't think people should dump on Joe Mack. That is so unjust. You have to give the guy the rest of the season."

Actually, I agree.

Just like I thought Paul LaPolice should have got more time, too.

You won't end a two-decades long Grey Cup drought by firing coaches and GMs all the time.

The Catch-22 is you won't end it if you hire the wrong guy, either.

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @friesensunmedia


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