CFL

Blue Bombers GM Mack defends himself as season gets worse

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The Canadian Press
9/6/2012 1:43:31 PM
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WINNIPEG -- Joe Mack barely flinched as he faced a barrage of questions about his role in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' miserable season.

In fact, the team's vice-president and general manager cracked a joke to start his first press conference since the Bombers were blown out 52-0 by the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Sunday.

"First I'd like to thank everybody for coming out to the biweekly Joe Mack fan appreciation day. Milk and cookies will be served afterwards," Mack quipped Thursday.

He was immediately asked what he wanted to say to fans who've been calling for his firing through social media campaigns on Facebook and Twitter that sprouted up after the loss dropped Winnipeg to a CFL-worst 2-7 record.

"I'd say, 'I understand that you're disappointed. So am I. And frustrated, so am I,' " Mack said. "That's something I can't control."

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.

Mack and LaPolice were hired following the 2009 season and the firing of former head coach Mike Kelly.

The club's record under Mack's rule is 17-30, including last year's East Division final win and a Grey Cup loss to B.C. While some blame for the overall record falls on LaPolice's shoulders, Mack admitted he's responsible as well.

"Obviously, I'm the general manager so it's going to fall on me," he said. "If we don't get better, obviously the board is going to have to make some decisions."

Earlier in the week, Bombers board of directors chairperson Bill Watchorn said Mack's job was safe until the board does its annual review at the end of the season.

Mack was asked if he thought he needed the team to get into the playoffs to save his job.

"That's beyond my control," he said. "I really think everybody should have every confidence that this board will do whatever they think is necessary for the betterment of the club."

He's also confident the team has the talent and will to turn the season around.

"No one likes to be 2-7. We're going to do everything we can to correct that," he said.

"I think we still have an opportunity. We're only halfway through the season. God bless the CFL we're only one game out of a playoff spot, so those are the things that I think are positive that we can try to build towards."

Looking over the squad's performance during his reign, Mack pointed out the roster was overhauled after Kelly's firing, but it did finish on top of the division last season for the first time since 2001 and went to the Grey Cup.

"I think if we didn't have any successes at all, then that (his firing) would be merited," Mack said. "I think there's a certain amount of wisdom on the board and I think that they'll look at the entire picture."

He dismissed criticism about the club's lack of Canadian talent, praising non-import players such as receiver Cory Watson, offensive lineman Chris Greaves and linebacker Henoc Muamba.

Mack also brought up last year's death of beloved defensive line and assistant head coach Richard Harris as one issue players may still be dealing with that affects their "psyche."

There have also been injuries and four road games to start this season because of delays in construction of a new stadium that's been pushed to next year.

But he defended his decision to fire LaPolice.

At the press conference announcing the firing, Mack 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.

When asked whether he had any doubts about the controversial firing considering the Bombers didn't score a point against the Riders -- the first time the team has gone scoreless in a game since 1969 -- Mack stood by the move.

"Paul is a class individual. He was great for me to work with, but it was a very complex decision and so, no, I feel that was the right thing to do," he said.

"Obviously, the offence and the offensive staff is disappointed that they didn't perform better. They'll address it."

And he's confident the team has the talent and will to improve under Burke, starting with the annual Banjo Bowl on Sunday when the Bombers host a rematch against the Roughriders (4-5).

"(Players) came up to me and one of the things that they were most hurt by their performance on Sunday was they felt they let coach Burke down," Mack said.

"I have every confidence that Tim will put everything he can into changing the season around and we'll see how it progresses. It'll be an ongoing saga for all of us, I guess."

Joe Mack (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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