WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Blue Bombers announced Thursday that they have removed the interim tag from Head Coach Tim Burke, officially naming him the 29th coach in team history.
Burke took over the position on an interim basis on August 25, 2012.
“Tim has done a great job at leading this football team since taking over the position in August and our players have shown a great deal of respect for him and his coaching style,” said Mack.
“We believe that by naming him Head Coach now, he will have a full offseason to implement his own system and style of coaching and will give us a head start on bettering our team for next season.”
Burke first joined Winnipeg as Defensive Coordinator and Defensive Backs Coach in 2011, leading a unit that finished first in 12 defensive categories to an East Division Championship and an appearance in the Grey Cup.
Before coming to Winnipeg, he spent three seasons with the Montreal Alouettes in the same capacity where he made three straight Grey Cup appearances, winning back-to-back games in 2009 and 2010.
Other CFL experience includes three seasons with the Calgary Stampeders as their Defensive Backs Coach before being promoted to interim Defensive Coordinator in 2007.
“I am more than ecstatic to be the Head Coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers,” said Burke.
“I’ve waited a long time for this and I look forward to having the opportunity to lead this football team. I believe in where this organization is headed and I can’t wait to get started on doing what I can to improve on our record from this season and bring the people of Winnipeg and fans of this team back to the Grey Cup.”
Burke began his coaching career at the University of Minnesota in 1977 and has since coached defenses all across the United States and Canada, including stops at Purdue, Ball State University and the University of Kansas among many others.
The Bombes also announced Thursday that Joe Mack will remain with the club as their General Manager.
“What ultimately sealed my decision was that I am just not ready to dismantle this organization and start over from scratch,” he said. “In business as in sports, success comes when you have stability in the leadership position,” said team President Garth Buchko
“Joe Mack, Tim Burke have the respect and confidence of their players and staff.”
Burke is the fifth head coach since 2005 to lead the Bombers. Paul LaPolice, who started this season after leading them to the Grey Cup last year, lost his job when they managed just two wins in their first eight games.
Mack was already under contract next year but there has been mounting fan anger over some of his moves. The Bombers dressed 19 rookies this season and many fans complained veterans were released without a solid plan to replace them. But Buchko and Mack point out that some of those rookies are top performers – like leading receiver Chris Matthews and tailback Chad Simpson, both topping the 1,000-yard mark.
“Joe and Tim have the liberty and the plan to make changes where they see fit for football operations but the expectation is to win football games and be a playoff team,” said Buchko.
All agree that for that to happen, they must tackle the big question of quarterback.
Burke and Mack like Buck Pierce, but he missed more than half the season with injuries after missing most of the 2010 campaign for the same reason.
Last year was his best as a Bomber when he started 16 games.
Mack says they have to sit down with Pierce and their medical people and talk about his future.
“The elephant in the room is the quarterback situation,” said Burke.
“We want to make sure we get that resolved so we have the best chance of moving forward and having a chance to be in the Grey Cup every year.
“It’s not enough for us to be an up-and-down team year in, year out. We want to consistently be a championship-calibre team.”
Backup Alex Brink will start Saturday against Montreal.
The news that Mack and Buchko will stay was greeted with some relief in the Bombers’ locker-room.
Veteran offensive lineman Glenn January said he likes Burke’s style.
“He’s a straight shooter, if he’s mad at you he tells you,” he said.
Veteran receiver Terrence Edwards added the club has the talent to win.
“Firing somebody’s not always the answer,” he said. “We understand fans are very passionate about this team and this club … I’ve been here six years and have had four different head coaches already …”
“We’ve got the right people here to do good things. We’ve just got to not be so quick to fire people.”
With files from the Canadian Press