Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke 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 he had been signed to a contract as head coach and that GM Joe Mack will also return next season. JASON HALSTEAD/Winnipeg Sun
Tim Burke has a clear vision of what the identity of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will be under his watch.
“Overachievers,” Burke said Thursday afternoon after he had the interim label removed from his job title and became the 29th head coach in the history of the Winnipeg Football Club. “I want our team to play at the highest level they can possibly play, every opportunity they go out onto the field. I want us to show up every week with the greatest of effort, focus and intensity and enthusiasm.
“My role as a head coach is to be a leader and show them the right path.”
The Blue Bombers haven’t done nearly enough winning of late, which is why they’ve had four head coaches alone during the six-year tenure of veteran receiver Terrence Edwards.
Will Burke be the answer and bring the stability that has been sorely lacking?
The Blue Bombers certainly hope so, which is why they handed him a three-year contract.
This is an opportunity Burke has relished for a long time — since the days of watching legendary college coach Bear Bryant roam the sidelines when he was a youngster growing up in Iowa — and comes after he was a finalist for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats vacancy in 2012 that was filled by George Cortez.
Burke admits the words head coach sound really good in front of his name.
“I was pretty ecstatic,” said Burke. “It’s a dream come true. The first thing I did was text my wife and let her know. Then she had to run off and buy some clothes for this event. Because quite honestly, we didn’t know this was coming.”
He’s not kidding either.
Burke was asked by reporters on Monday and Wednesday if any talks had taken place regarding his future and both times he said no, revealing later that general manager Joe Mack called him into his office on Wednesday afternoon and the contract was signed on Thursday morning.
Burke has been coaching since 1977 and made no bones about the fact he occasionally wondered if this day would ever come.
“I thought for years, ‘I wonder if I’m ever going to get a chance?’” said Burke. “I love football and I made my mind up years ago that even if I didn’t get a chance, I would stay in it until my wife forces me out.”
Mack, who got a vote of confidence of his own on Thursday from president and CEO Garth Buchko, said it was clear to him that Burke deserved the opportunity to become the head coach and that an expanded search wasn’t necessary — despite candidates like Calgary Stampeders offensive co-ordinator Dave Dickenson and Toronto Argonauts defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones being out there and quite possibly interested in the position.
“(Burke) showed a lot of character and showed mental toughness during some tough times,” said Mack. “He’s been very even-keeled, very professional, very mature. He didn’t panic at all and finally, he has a great deal of respect from the players in the locker room and that was really paramount. I saw how the players reacted to him. I was getting a lot of positive feedback and heartfelt convictions that they thought Tim was the guy.”
“The guys respect him, they love playing for him,” added Blue Bombers safety Ian Logan. “So a whole year of his preparation and doing things the way he wants them done, knowing he’s the guy, will be a big step for us.”