Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Bombers Back Mack

Frustrated Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans shouldn't expect any more heads to roll in the wake of the CFL team's humiliating 52-0 road loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Sunday.

Bombers board of directors chairperson Bill Watchorn said Tuesday in a phone interview that he's aware of the growing backlash directed at team vice-president and general manager Joe Mack, but said that no changes to the team's front office are expected.

Mack has been on the hot seat since he fired former head coach Paul LaPolice on Aug. 25 and replaced him on an interim basis with defensive co-ordinator Tim Burke.

Following Burke's debut in Sunday's loss -- the first time the Bombers (2-7) have been held scoreless since 1969 -- Mack became the target of a Facebook page called "Fire Joe Mack Petition" and a "Fire Joe Mack" Twitter feed.

While Watchorn understands fans' frustrations -- he shared the same emotions as he watched the game on TV -- he tried to put the loss in perspective.

"One game is not a season," Watchorn said. "Disappointing though it may be, the board has confidence in Joe Mack, the coaches and the players and the CEO (Garth Buchko).

"I think that you'll find, we hope, but I think you'll find that the performance will improve. You can't go from a team of last year to a team of this year, with essentially the same core group although I know there's a few who left, and say it's useless.

"So I would say the board has the confidence in those people. We will do a review of football operations annually as we always do at the end of the season."

Mack and LaPolice were hired following the 2009 season and the firing of former head coach Mike Kelly, who also had a Facebook page called "Fire Mike Kelly" during his 7-11 season.

The Bombers are the worst team in the league and their 2-7 record is the direct opposite of last year's mid-season mark. Last season's squad went on to finish 10-8 and lost the Grey Cup 34-23 to the B.C. Lions.

The blame for that flipping of records has fallen on Mack after fans were divided on LaPolice's firing the day after the team lost 20-17 to B.C. at home.

Some fans thought the close contest, and a Bomber win the week before against Hamilton, was an indication the squad might be turning the corner.

At the press conference announcing LaPolice's firing, Mack said it wasn't a snap decision. He cited factors such as a lack of improvement in the offence, a losing record since a year ago, undisciplined play and his thought that LaPolice may have lost his players' confidence.

In Sunday's defeat, the Bombers' offence -- run by first-year offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton -- only managed 102 total net yards offence, had a total of 10 first downs and only possessed the ball for 20:54 in the 60-minute tilt.

Winnipeg also racked up 101 penalty yards, turned the ball over five times and allowed the Roughriders (4-5) to rack up 422 total net yards offence. The victory had ended a five-game Saskatchewan losing streak.

"My initial emotion was embarrassment at the performance and frustration, disappointment," Watchorn said of the game.

"I think those three words would describe my state of mind at the time."

Mack, who was last in the CFL as Winnipeg's director of player personnel from 1984-87, wasn't made available to the media after the Labour Day Classic. A team spokesperson said he'll speak to reporters mid-week.

The club is moving into a new stadium next year at the University of Manitoba campus and fan support and sponsorship will be key in paying for the $190-million facility.

"The whole purpose of the Winnipeg Football Club is football, and of course we're concerned, of course we're disappointed," Watchorn said.

"But I think we're moving into a new stadium one way or another and the team will get better one way or another."

As for a need for personnel changes on the field, Watchorn is leaving that up to the football minds.

"Any personnel moves would have to be originating from Joe Mack and Garth Buchko, primarily Joe Mack on football, and it's their team, it's their season and they've got to deliver the goods."

That begins this Sunday afternoon when the Bombers host Saskatchewan in the annual Banjo Bowl to end the back-to-back clashes/


Anonymous said...

"One game is not a season". No, you are right Mr. Watchorn, but that game should have sent you a definite message.

Anonymous said...

Lapolice has to be loving this.