Joe Mack, Tim Burke will lead Bombers into 2013

The Bombers named Tim Burke as their full-time head coach for next season. (Jason Halstead/QMI...

The Bombers named Tim Burke as their full-time head coach for next season. (Jason Halstead/QMI Agency)

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:09 PM ET

WINNIPEG - The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have decided continuity is the key when it comes to their coaching staff and general manager.

The Bombers have decided to keep GM Joe Mack and remove the interim title from head coach Tim Burke, officially making him the 29th coach in franchise history.

Winnipeg is 5-12 this year and will finish with the worst record in the league for the second time in three years. The club is 19-34 in Mack’s three years at the helm, and it became just the ninth team since 1974 to follow a Grey Cup appearance by missing the playoffs the following season.

The players, of course, were thrilled with the news, considering the men who brought them here and currently coach them are keeping their jobs. Quarterback Alex Brink, who was brought in by Mack shortly after the GM was hired, believes Thursday was the first step in the Blue and Gold turning things around.

“It started today by staying the course from the upper management and coaching perspective,” Brink said. “That’s important, obviously, to create that continuity. From the players’ side, kind of trying to keep this group together. I remember in 2010 we had such a rough year and then we went into the off-season and remained pretty much status quo going into 2011, and it worked out really well for us.

“I see a lot of the same characteristics on this team. Young, but competitive and athletic and lost some close, tough games. And hopefully next year we can kind of get over that hump with the same group.”

The Bombers made it to the Grey Cup last season, falling to the B.C. Lions in the big game, but they started 2012 with a 2-6 record. As a result, Mack fired head coach Paul LaPolice in late August and replaced him with Burke.

Two of Burke’s first three games as the sideline sergeant were a 52-0 loss to Saskatchewan in the annual Labour Day Classic and a 44-3 debacle in Calgary two weeks later. Burke has bounced back, but the Bombers are 3-6 going into this weekend’s meaningless regular-season finale against Montreal on Saturday.

“I am more than ecstatic to be the head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers,” Burke said in a press release. “I’ve waited a long time for this, and I look forward to having the opportunity to lead this football team.

“I believe in where this organization is headed, and I can’t wait to get started on doing what I can to improve on our record from this season and bring the people of Winnipeg and fans of this team back to the Grey Cup.”

Mack said in the same press release it was important for the team to know where it was headed as soon as possible.

“Tim has done a great job at leading this football team since taking over the position in August and our players have shown a great deal of respect for him and his coaching style,” Mack said.

“We believe that by naming him head coach now, he will have a full off-season to implement his own system and style of coaching and will give us a head start on bettering our team for next season.”

Brink said Burke has developed plenty of respect among the players.

“Coach Burke’s a guy that all the players really respect,” Brink said. “He’s really earned that over the last 10 weeks or whatever, taking over a tough situation and kind of working through it and growing. We’ve all seen that. Mr. Mack’s a guy who brought all of us here. He has faith in us, and we appreciate that.”

Mack has had plenty of ups and downs during his tenure, from finding running back Chad Simpson and receiver Chris Matthews this year to letting plenty of veteran talent leave either through free agency or trade. He primarily stood pat in the off-season, and the result is another year out of the playoffs.

Another reason for the team’s struggles is Mack’s inability to find a quarterback. His decision to sign Buck Pierce in 2010 was a good one, considering they had no one else in the stable, but Brink and Joey Elliott have failed to take the next step despite having had three years in the system.

Combine that with Pierce’s inability to stay healthy, and you get a .358 winning percentage. Finding a quarterback will be Mack’s first priority in the off-season, but that will be easier said than done.


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