Blue Bombers cut ties with head coach Burke

Tim Burke has been released as head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers' head coach Tim Burke, shown in August after another loss, that time at the hands of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, has been fired by the team. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Tim Burke has been released as head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

“We thank Tim for his passion, hard work and professionalism throughout the past year-and-a-half he has been in this role, and for his tireless efforts over the past three seasons with the Winnipeg Football Club,” president and CEO Wade Miller stated in a news release.

“If an opportunity does arise for him to join our staff as a defensive co-ordinator, our organization would definitely be open to exploring this with Tim.”

Burke joined the Blue Bombers coaching staff prior to the 2011 season in the role of defensive co-ordinator, before taking over on an interim basis in August 2012 and officially being named head coach in November of that year.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time in Winnipeg and am grateful for the opportunity this franchise gave me," Burke stated in the news release.

"The fan support in this city and province is just really remarkable and it is one of the greatest things I can take away from this experience in Winnipeg."

'Right step for this organization'

It's not the first time Miller, who was confirmed as the Blue Bombers' president and chief executive officer on Tuesday, has pressed the firing button.

When Miller was put in the acting role in August, his first move was axing general manager Joe Mack.

Although Kyle Walters is the team's acting GM, Miller explained why he let Burke go rather than wait for a GM to decide his fate.

"I believe that it was the right step for this organization," he told reporters at a news conference.

"Typically, a new general manager is going to want to hire his own person, and I believe now that we've set that path for a new general manager to be able to make his own determination of who his head coach should be.

"And also, that I didn't feel it was appropriate to have Tim waiting for the next three or four or five weeks in determining what his future was with the organization."

The Bombers finished with a league-worst 3-15 record this season, tying the club's lowest mark in an 18-game season. They were 7-21 under Burke's leadership.

All the assistant coaches are on contracts that are up this year, Miller said, adding he's open to Burke staying with the team because he's got good character and has excelled as a defensive boss.

Burke reportedly had a year left on his contract.

"I think that we'd be lucky as an organization to have Tim back as a defensive co-ordinator," Miller said.

"I think that that's a decision that the new head coach and general manager will make, but that is definitely something that Tim and I discussed."

Burke is receptive to that and wants to meet the new head coach, said Miller, who'll be involved in the interview process with the GM.

Burke was in 'an extremely tough spot'

Miller acknowledged Burke was in "an extremely tough spot when he took over."

And it got worse this season.

Mack kept often-injured Buck Pierce as the team's starting quarterback, and predictably Pierce was lost to injury early this season. His young backups didn't flourish, Mack was fired and then Pierce was traded to B.C. in September.

Offensive co-ordinator and quarterbacks coach Gary Crowton was fired after Mack and replaced by former Hamilton head coach Marcel Bellefeuille, who'd been added to the staff the week before as a consultant.

Miller didn't view Winnipeg's disastrous season as a negative to finding someone to replace Burke.

"I think you get an opportunity to come make a mark for yourself," he said. "It's not going to happen overnight, but the head coach and general manager are going to need to have a direction and a plan to get us to be competitive every week."

The Bombers will have some competition searching for a head coach as there are also vacancies in Edmonton and Ottawa, while Montreal GM Jim Popp took over as the Alouettes' head coach when Dan Hawkins was fired earlier this season.

Potential candidates?

Miller said the GM the team hires, which is two to four weeks in the offing, would have a list of candidates they'd want to pursue as a head coach.

Some names that have surfaced include Calgary offensive co-ordinator Dave Dickenson, Saskatchewan quarterbacks coach Khari Jones, B.C. offensive co-ordinator Jacques Chapdelaine and Toronto defensive co-ordinator/assistant head coach Chris Jones.

Dickenson is considered a desirable candidate, although it's believed he doesn't want to break his family and professional ties in Calgary.

Khari Jones has strong ties to the Bombers. The former quarterback is in the club's hall of fame and he and Miller played together and are partners in Booster Juice franchises.

"I'm not going to talk about potential candidates," Miller said. "People that know me know that I care about being competitive and personal relationships wouldn't impact decisions that I make."

If the Bombers are looking for someone with head coaching experience, a list might include former Bombers boss Doug Berry (Montreal) and Kavis Reed, who was recently fired by Edmonton and is a former Winnipeg defensive co-ordinator.

The firing of Paul LaPolicewho was Burke's predecessor as head coach, was also called a bad move by many Bomber fans.

"If you've been a head coach before, is that a good thing or a bad thing, who knows?" Miller said.

"So I think it's important to find the right person, and (having) head coach experience is important, but not a deal-breaker, either."

He did know what the right person will hopefully bring to the club.

"Bring an attitude, bring leadership, bring a vision of where we need to go, along with the general manager," Miller said.

With files from The Canadian Press


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