Now that Rider CEO Jim Hopson has announced that Brendan Taman will be taking over as general manager, the next priority on his list of things to do is to secure a head coach. Some of the names that have been circulating around are Hamilton defensive co-ordinator Corey Chamblin and Argos special teams co-ordinator Mike O'Shea.
Although Taman will need to wait a week until the Grey Cup festivities come to a wrap, a name that also needs to be thrown into the ring is Bombers defensive co-ordinator Tim Burke.
Prior to coming to the Winnipeg, Burke held the position of defensive co-ordinator for the Alouettes, and was a key piece of the 2009 and 2010 Grey Cup championships for the Montreal.
The primary reason for Burke leaving the Als was in an attempt to improve his chances of a head coaching position, which he knew he was never going to be granted while coaching behind head man Marc Trestman in Montreal.
Taman has a very good idea of the qualities he is looking for to fill the role. One characteristic that you have to factor into the selection process is a proven track record of producing success over time.
Prior to coming to the CFL, Burke led the Purdue Boilermakers secondary, which finished the 1997 season with the second most interceptions in school history. Since entering the CFL, Burke has honed his understanding of the CFL game, consistently leading the Alouettes' defence in takeaways the past two years.
Blue Bombers criticized
After finishing the 2010 season with a 4-14 record, many were critical of the lack of personnel changes that head coach Paul LaPolice made heading into the 2011 season. The Bombers entered the 2011 season with 22 of 24 starting players from their 2010 roster.
Between LaPolice and Burke, there was an understanding that Winnipeg had a very talented group of athletes that simply needed some further development and direction. It is easy to find new players. It is much more difficult to take the talent that you feel that you have and mesh it into a strong football team.
The Bombers lost nine games in 2010 by four points or less, and allowed only 10 more points defensively than Montreal. But Winnipeg now heads into the 2011 Grey Cup anchored by a dominant defence, a unit led by Burke.
Burke has proven over and over again that he has the ability to generate success on the football field.
Burke knows talent
The commitment to the players this season is also a great example of Burke's ability to evaluate talent. As we have seen, there is a very fine line between winning and losing. The easy thing to do is to find other players. The hard thing to do is to take the talent that you feel you have and mesh them into a strong football team. Burke has proven that he has the ability to get this done.
He has the knowhow to structure a defence that caters to the skill set of his players. Anchored by a simple and clear message, his players play with confidence and speed week after week.
Over the past three years, Burke has led defensive units that have created more turnovers than anyone team in the CFL. The trademark of a Burke's defence is a front four that has the ability to create pressure without blitzing additional defensive players.
With the loss of Phillip Hunt to the Philadelphia Eagles, it was crucial for Burke to find players that could get after the quarterback off the edges. With the help of the late Richard Harris, Burke was able to find players that could create pressure with only rushing players like Odell Willis, Kenny Mainor and Jason Vega. This enabled Burke to play aggressive "hands on" zone coverages behind players who played the game with their 'eyes'.
Players like Jovon Johnson and Jonathan Hefney fit extremely well into Burke's defence, because they not only play the game physically and with speed, but they also see the field extremely well. As they fall back into their zone responsibilities, they are very talented in seeing the play develop. This is one of the reasons why you will see Burke rotate Johnson into the safety position where he can see the play and jump routes given the opportunity.
The combination of pressure and aggressive zone coverage, coupled with the right players in the right positions, has resulted in a consistent defensive performance every year.
Burke has proven to be a student of the game, a tremendous judge of talent and a coach who can communicate a defensive system to a group of athletes with simplicity and clarity.
Taking that into consideration, Taman should be giving Burke a call next week!
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