WINNIPEG - He opened with a joke about the media showing up for his “bi-weekly Joe Mack fan appreciation day,” suggesting he’d serve milk and cookies later.
He went out of his way to heap praise on those who have the power to fire him, the board of directors.
He defended the roster he’s built and lauded his work improving the Canadian talent.
In his first public comments since his Winnipeg Blue Bombers were flattened 52-0 in Regina last weekend, the much-attacked Joe Mack was equal parts commander-in-the-foxhole and Dr. Phil, at one point asking fans to treat the team as a family member in trouble.
And, eventually, with some prodding, Mack took responsibility for his record: 17-30 in two and a half years at the helm.
“I’m the general manager, so it’s going to fall on me,” Mack said. “If we don’t get better, obviously the board will have to make some decisions.”
Even then, it didn’t take long for Mack to continue to paint his tenure in stripes of sky blue and glittering gold.
“We forget that we did end up in first place last year. First time in 10 years,” he said. “There’s a certain amount of wisdom in the board and they’ll look at the entire picture. And the entire picture is also we were in first place, we went to a Grey Cup and we made $3 million last year, as opposed to a loss of $1.6 million in 2009.”
How much of a hand he had in that profit, he wasn’t saying. Only that it proves not everybody wants him run out of town.
“If we sold out nine games in a row... the fans, bless their hearts, think we’re going in the right direction.”
Not that he pretended everything is sunshine and lollipops with a fan base having its patience tested like no other in the country.
The first question Mack fielded was about the thousands who want him fired.
“I understand that you’re disappointed. So am I,” Mack said. “And frustrated. So am I. That’s something I can’t control.... I really don’t worry about that, to be honest with you.”
As for that 52-point pasting his team suffered just days after he sacked his head coach, Mack simply said stuff happens.
“I don’t know if that necessarily says anything about my command of the situation,” he said. “If you check the record, there have been Grey Cup champions who have had that type of game during the Grey Cup champion season. In the CFL sometimes that happens.”
There were a few surprises, particularly when Mack suggested part of the problem is the players are still dealing with the death of assistant coach Richard Harris, nearly 14 months ago.
He took a shot at the Mike Kelly regime of ’09, pointing out how extensively he’s had to rebuild the roster.
And he said he actually sensed trouble as far back as training camp, but couldn’t put his finger on it.
No matter, there was probably nothing he could have done about it.
“It was maybe just our fate that we had to go through this,” Mack said. “That’s an organic thing. It’s a group dynamic. It just has to evolve on its own.”
With his work this season largely done, Mack says it’s up to the players and coaches, now.
“It’ll be an ongoing saga for all of us, I guess.”
Some highlights of Joe Mack’s news conference
On the 52-0 loss to Saskatchewan:
“I can’t explain it. You’re just flabbergasted when it happens.”
On how long a CFL GM needs to prove himself:
“I don’t know if there’s a time frame. We forget that we did end up in first place last year. First time in 10 years. We did go to a Grey Cup.”
On the death of Richard Harris still affecting the team:
“It had residual effects. There were emotional feelings that some of the players were still dealing with.”
Advice for the fans:
“What you may want to think about doing is maybe try to support them and give them a little bit of patience, and even a little bit of love. Because that’s what family members and teammates do.”
On firing Paul LaPolice:
“That was the right thing to do.”
On his draft record:
“Cory Watson is a stud. If we only had him alone, we would have done a good job of improving our Canadian talent.”
On whether he’s made mistakes:
“Yeah I have, sure. I’d rather not say (which).”