WINNIPEG — Casey Creehan is rejoining old pal Tim Burke and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as their new defensive co-ordinator and linebackers coach, the CFL club announced Thursday.
The move was done with the blessing of Creehan’s now former boss, Hamilton Tiger-Cats head coach George Cortez.
“He knows that Casey and I are tight, much like his relationship with John Hufnagel in Calgary,” said Burke, when asked why Cortez would sanction the lateral shift.
It’s also true that Hamilton, like the Bombers, had issues on defence last season. Particularly disappointing for the Bombers, who reached the Grey Cup game in 2011.
Burke says Hamilton had a lot of injuries to deal with, particularly in the secondary.
“The better defences have continuity and consistency and that’s one thing we were unable to get done over there in Hamilton in my short stint there,” added Creehan.
“We played a number of different combinations there in the secondary and in the defensive line due to injuries and rookies … There were some things we did really well in Hamilton in spurts but we were inconsistent.”
Burke said Winnipeg had similar problems, but not because of rookies.
“First of all we were banged up early,” he said, pointing to four road games that opened the season because of construction delays on the new Winnipeg stadium.
“Certainly we did not play up to the level we played at the year before.”
Burke says he has already had words with the defence about some of the emotional aspects of their game he felt were lacking.
“I believe we have the talent, we just have to have the great desire and effort. . . When we come back we’re going to have the great desire and effort or we’re going to be making some changes.”
Creehan says he likes the idea of working with a more experienced crew, most of them dating back to his time with the Bombers.
“There’s something to be said for experience in this league. That’s one of the things I’m looking forward to in coming back to Winnipeg,” he said.
He also had lots of nice words for his former and new boss, Bombers general manager Joe Mack.
“What I see is a team that has gotten tremendously better in terms of talent over the years and the one man responsible for that the most more than anybody is Joe Mack,” he said.
“I think he’s a tremendous evaluator of talent, a great GM, but an even better person.”
Creehan coached the linebackers and defensive line in Winnipeg from 2010-2011 before taking the defensive co-ordinator spot with Hamilton.
Burke started last season as Winnipeg’s defensive co-ordinator but was promoted to head coach when Paul LaPolice was sacked.
He said he wanted his replacement to be someone who shared his philosophy, and Creehan and Burke have been tight since they worked together in Calgary about seven years ago.
Creehan confirmed they have similar beliefs about what makes a good defence.
“First and foremost ,you have to be able to pressure the quarterback,” he said.
“The second thing is you have to be able to disrupt the timing of the quarterback and the receiver. We both believe strongly in playing a fair amount of press-man coverage, which in our opinion is the best way to do that.”
One of the positions Winnipeg struggled to get right last season was strong-side linebacker.
Late-season auditions by Johnny Sears and Demond Washington proved successful and Burke says they feel better about their choices going into 2013.
Sears will be having off-season surgery and is a free agent but he has already suggested he’d like to return.
“I think we’re going to be OK at that position with those two guys,” said Burke.