Bombers gambling big on Joe Mack
By KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency
|Winnipeg Blue Bombers GM Joe Mack speaks to media at a news conference at the Blue and Gold Club at Canad Inns Stadium on Thurs., Nov. 1, 2012, to announce that interim head coach Tim Burke had been signed to a contract as head coach and that Mack will also return next season. (JASON HALSTEAD/QMI AGENCY)
WINNIPEG - The Winnipeg Blue Bombers, at a critical time in their existence, have decided to take a chance on a football operations leader with a .358 winning percentage.
With all apologies to Tim Burke, the news that he officially became the team’s 29th head coach on Thursday was lost in the shuffle. He was always going to get a pass because he took over on an interim basis when general manager Joe Mack fired Paul LaPolice in late August.
No, the real news on Thursday, the announcement that has everybody talking and the issue that is seemingly splitting Bomber Nation down the middle, was CEO Garth Buchko’s decision to keep Mack.
Those supporting Mack, which of course includes Buchko, believes Mack has put the foundation in place for success down the road. The fact the team made it to the Grey Cup last year was brought up many times during Thursday’s press conference, as was the number of rookies on the team.
“As I reviewed our talent, spoke with knowledgeable football people, spent time with our coaches and reviewed the game plan for getting us back to the Grey Cup, I became convinced that we do have a strong corps of people in place and to get the job done,” Buchko said.
Those who want Mack gone will point to his 19-34 record since moving into the general manager’s chair, his inaction during free agency and his inability to find a quarterback. Finding a reliable quarterback will be the No. 1 goal in the off-season, and the team hasn’t yet ruled out injury prone Buck Pierce being part of the picture.
The Bombers will move into Investors Group Field next summer, and some fans are saying they don’t know if they’re going to buy tickets because of the mess Mack has made in his three years at the helm.
The debate about whether Mack has the right pieces in place for future success will only be known down the road. What is known is Buchko’s first big decision earlier this week, which was to retain Mack, will go one of two ways.
Either the team will find a reliable quarterback and get back to the playoffs, or the team will remain one of the league’s bottom feeders and the $85 million loan the club has to pay off will get tougher because it resides in a ticket-driven league.
And if it goes badly, Buchko won’t be able to say he didn’t see it coming.