Burke not the prob­lem

Play­ers rush to coach’s de­fence af­ter thrashing

Winnipeg Free Press - SundayXtra - - SPORTS THE FIFTH QUARTER - By Paul Wiecek

GUELPH, ONT. — Tim Burke’s no dummy — he knew the ques­tion was com­ing and he’d de­cided how to an­swer be­fore it was asked Satur­day in the wake of a 37- 14 Win­nipeg Blue Bombers loss to the Hamil­ton Tiger- Cats.

Burke was asked if he fears for the se­cu­rity of his job as the head coach of a Bombers team that lost its sixth game in a row to fall to 1- 7.

“I’m not go­ing to even worry about it,” Burke said. “I mean, if they want to do some­thing, they can. I’m do­ing the best I can with what I have.”

Asked to make the pitch on why he thinks he should re­main as the head coach of the em­bat­tled Bombers, the club’s me­dia re­la­tions di­rec­tor Dar­ren Cameron in­ter­vened, say­ing the ques­tion was un­fair and re­fused to al­low Burke to an­swer it.

So the same ques­tion was posed in­stead to the Bombers play­ers, who are, af­ter all, the peo­ple most re­spon­si­ble for putting Burke in the po­si­tion where the ques­tion is even be­ing asked of him.

What emerged was a locker- room that still fully sup­ports its head coach.

“No ques­tion about it. And that’s the thing that’s ex­tremely frus­trat­ing to me — a lot of the stuff ul­ti­mately falls on ( Burke’s) shoul­ders at this point,” said of­fen­sive tackle Glenn Jan­uary. “And I think he’s one of the best head coaches I’ve ever had.

“Just the way he ap­proaches the team and con­ducts him­self with us — his no- BS at­ti­tude. I def­i­nitely re­spond well to that. He’s a very, very good coach. Ul­ti­mately, this is a player’s game and we have to go out and ex­e­cute in a way that’s good enough to get wins.”

Whether the Bombers can do that soon enough to save Burke’s job re­mains to be seen — and it’s worth at least men­tion­ing that to­day is the one- year an­niver­sary of the fir­ing of Paul LaPo­lice, the last Bombers head coach. He was fired a year ago to­day af­ter a Bombers loss to B. C. dropped the Bombers to 2- 6, which is one win bet­ter than where the Bombers are to­day.

“We all love coach Burke and I know per­son­ally this has noth­ing to do with him,” said line­backer Pierre- Luc Labbe. “It’s about us — we have to step it up. The game plan is good. We know it’s no­body else’s fault but ours.”

With this sea­son’s 1- 7 start added to the 4- 6 record the Bombers posted un­der Burke as a head coach in 2012, the long­time for­mer CFL de­fen­sive co- or­di­na­tor is 5- 13 in his first head coach­ing job.

But the case to keep Burke through the end of the sea­son and give him a chance to turn things around goes like this:

For­mer Bombers GM Joe Mack was fired just two weeks ago be­cause it was felt he did a poor job build­ing the cur­rent team and was re­spon­si­ble for the club not hav­ing a vi­able start­ing quar­ter­back or the depth of tal­ent nec­es­sary to com­pete.

If you ac­cept that to be true, it would seem a stretch then to just two weeks later tie a can to the man whose job it is to try and get wins out of the empty cup­board Mack left be­hind.

That ap­pears to be the think­ing of the Bombers brain trust right now, who are pledg­ing a mini- air­lift of new play­ers in the com­ing days, pre­sum­ably to give their em­bat­tled head coach at least some new op­tions.

Help can­not come soon enough — the 1- 7 Bombers head into Regina next Sun­day against a Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers team that has the mir­ror of Win­nipeg’s record at 7- 1.

Just to il­lus­trate how quickly things can turn in the CFL, that’s the ex­act re­verse of the sit­u­a­tion at this time just two years ago, when it was Win­nipeg who was 7- 1 and Saskatchewan 1- 7 head­ing into the 2011 Labour Day week­end game.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS AR­CHIVES

Win­nipeg Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke has the sup­port of the locker- room.

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