WINNIPEG - I won’t say we’ve reached a new low here on the bald prairie, but we’ve certainly found a remarkably modest place to set the bar when it comes to judging the operation of a professional sports team.
That football operation over on Maroon’s Road that’s won eight of its last 27 regular season games, a morbid stretch that included two of the most embarrassing defeats in its 80-plus year history?
Its big thinkers have decided to, get this, stay the course.
That’s right, the ship has already bounced off a reef, there’s a gaping hole in its hull and more hazards are everywhere, but the captain, Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky himself, Garth Buchko, has declared all to be rosy just around the next iceberg.
The rookie CEO, who’s been up to his eyeballs in one crisis after another since he took the big chair, made the organization’s most important decision, Thursday, retaining Joe Mack as the general manager.
The same Joe Mack who’s had three years to build something resembling a Grey Cup contender, but whose team is languishing in the CFL East basement for the second time in that term.
Nothing says status quo quite like 5-12, eh?
Mack’s teams have won 20 of 55 games that matter, and anyone who says things are going in the right direction should try explaining the 8-19 record over the last season and a half.
The stellar record that precipitated this move includes the hiring and firing of a head coach, letting key free agents bolt for better scenery and refusing to dip even one timid toe into the free agent pool himself.
Showing an uncanny lack of feel for team chemistry or the value of leadership, Mack allowed what little identity this team had to disintegrate to the point where nobody seems to know what the Bombers stand for anymore.
Oh, and how can we forget the man’s brazen attempt to blame the death of assistant coach Richard Harris a year earlier for his team’s putrid play in the first half of 2012, the low watermark of which was a 52-0 loss in Saskatchewan.
Talk about leadership at its finest.
Two weeks later the entire country was laughing, as what used to be a proud franchise was throttled again, 44-3 — capping back-to-back road games that no doubt made Cal Murphy do somersaults in his grave.
Mack’s greatest recent accomplishment: re-signing his three quarterbacks last winter, remember?
Obviously a keen judge of talent, he proudly stated his team’s quarterback depth would take a back seat to no one.
Yet Winnipeg’s week-to-week dependency on its brittle No. 1 gun — tune in for another installment of as the Buck turns — became a gong show.
But Mr. Mack will continue to be paid handsomely in 2013, and perhaps another year after that, because his boss believes he’s brought in some really, really great young players who are on the verge of becoming a really great team.
Sounding like a fan waiting in line for an autograph, Buchko has taken Mack’s Kool-Aid and chug-a-lugged it like a teenager at a drinking contest.
This was the easy choice for the rookie CEO. Do nothing and hope things turn around.
Perhaps all those years in radio allow Buchko to see and hear things the rest of us don’t.
God bless him if he’s right on this one.
My fear is he simply had no idea what else to do. He’s been rather busy putting out fires, after all.
Of course, the Kool-Aid will now get passed down the line, like the phony wine at communion.
Mack says he’ll retain head coach Tim Burke, who says he’ll retain his staff, particularly offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton. Yes, the same Gary Crowton who took over the league’s No. 5 rated attack and turned it into No. 7 this season.
He’s shown signs of learning the three-down game, you say?
Didn’t look that way last week in Hamilton.
Burke also doesn’t rule out going into next year with the same quarterbacks.
Same CEO, same GM, same head coach, same assistants, same players.
I can’t help but wonder if the Bombers will have the same fans.