Knee-jerk firings don't create best solutions | Football | CBC Sports

CFLKnee-jerk firings don't create best solutions

Posted: Wednesday, August 29, 2012 | 03:19 PM

Back to accessibility links
Former Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice transformed a struggling squad into an Eastern Conference champion, yet still finds himself unemployed. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press) Former Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice transformed a struggling squad into an Eastern Conference champion, yet still finds himself unemployed. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Beginning of Story Content

For those of you that have been living under a rock the past few days, or taking one final week of summer vacation with your family - like me - it might come as news that Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice was fired.
For those of you that have been living under a rock the past few days, or taking one final week of summer vacation with your family - like me - it might come as news that Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice was fired.

With a 2-6 record, many are of the opinion that this move is long overdue. However, I believe that we have grown too accustomed to the idea that change is the obvious right move in turning an organization around.

I find it very interesting how quickly we forget and how quickly we can flip-flop in our opinions.

Take the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Many argue that Greg Marshall was justifiably fired last season by the Riders after a brutal start in his first year as head coach. Plenty was written in the off-season about the much-needed attitude change in Riderville, and how a young firecracker coach like Corey Chamblin was the perfect fit.

Many were believed that a little fire under the collar was all that was required to bring success to this organization. And with the fast start this season - the Riders opened with three straight wins - several people sat back convinced hiring Chamblin was the right move.

I am curious to know what the general consensus in Saskatchewan is now following five consecutive losses. Is now the right time to fire Chamblin and start looking for a new head coach again?

And what about the Hamilton Tiger-Cats?

GM Bob O'Billovich decided it was the right time to make a change this past off-season and dump Marcel Bellefeuille in favour of George Cortez, a man hailed as an the offensive tactician who would lead the team to a new level of success.

Remember, Bellefeuille was the guy who took a 3-15 team, one entrenched in a losing culture, and developed an organization that expected to win. Bellefeuille had the Ticats knocking at the door of the Grey Cup the past two seasons.

But I guess it was the right time for change. I guess Cortez and quarterback Henry Burris was all that the team needed to win a Grey Cup. Yet the Ticats have stumbled to a 3-5 start.

Plenty of optimism in Winnipeg

This brings me back to LaPolice.

There was plenty of optimism heading into the 2012 season in Winnipeg after LaPolice led the Bombers to Grey Cup last year. It is hard to argue with the Blue Bombers' success, although I thought they would improve on offence and was excited to see how the team would perform in 2012.

LaPolice was rewarded with a two-year contract extension in the off-season after transforming a 4-14 squad in 2009 into an Eastern Conference champion two years later. In his first year as Bomber GM, Joe Mack was "convinced" that LaPolice was the man to continue to guide the Bombers in the right direction.

Or was he?

When questioned this week about why he decided to extend LaPolice's contract , he suggested that a large part of the decision was based on his desire to establish the appearance of stability in the organization in order to have greater levels of success, including the retaining and acquiring of new talent.

I understand that positioning happens in business, but I am not sure if this speaks to Mack's business savvy or reveals his incompetence.

The contract extension Mack gave to LaPolice will now cost the Bombers a reported $460,000. That's quite an aggressive investment for a proper business environment.

Questionable decisions

In Mack's first year he was directly responsible for making decisions that affected the ability of the Winnipeg offence to evolve. Greg Carr and Brendon LaBatte were lost to free agency. Offensive lineman Obby Khan was advised to "retire," and all-star running back Fred Reid was released.

All of these players are no longer with the organization because they simply had heavy contracts and did not fit into Mack's budget. Although he dismantled the offensive line, he still decided to sign QB Buck Pierce to a contract extension.

It should be pretty interesting to hear from Mack now as the brittle Pierce is healthy and demanding his starting role back from Joey Elliott, who has played well and comes much cheaper.

Mack was officially hired in his current position in 2010. While reading his biography I found it interesting that he prides himself as the individual who has "put his stamp on the team by bringing in a wealth of young, promising talent," which has been instrumental in turning a 4-14 team into a Grey Cup contender.

I am pretty sure the team in 2009 featured the same roster that challenged for the Grey Cup last season. Mack may want to look into that.

Mack also lists several football operation jobs in the NFL to his credit. What stands out to me, however, is that he doesn't stay in one place for too long. Maybe, in a result-orientated business like football, he hasn't been good enough. Just saying...

LaPolice limited

LaPolice came into this season with a weak offensive line and then faced a string of unfortunate injuries to key offensive players. Chris Garrett was assigned the responsibility to fill the void created by the release of Reid, but it was unfortunate to see him sidelined for the season with a left Achilles tendon.

I don't think anyone should be surprised by another one of Pierce's injury.

I have said this before: you can't have offensive productivity if you have a weak offensive line, both in the running and passing game.

How would you like to be given the responsibility to win a game against some of the best CFL defences while trying to overcome these types of offensive shortcomings? But this is precisely what the Bombers, led by LaPolice, almost accomplished this past week against the defending Grey Cup champion B.C. Lions.

Yet after loss, I guess it is the right time to make a change.

I have often said that football was a ton of fun to play while you remained healthy and your team was winning games. When you are not healthy and force yourself to play because your coach is either pressuring you to get on the field, or fear losing your job, you play poorly. When you play poorly, you are immediately criticized for your inabilities to perform by the organization and the local fans, and then when your team is losing you get fired.

The constant uncertainty of employment was a big reason why I retired early.

Although the firing of LaPolice has captured the headlines this week, there are several players who are sitting on pins and needles waiting to see if they are going to receive "the call."

It is crazy how you can get comfortable in such a dysfunctional environment.

LaPolice received several phone calls and tweets this week from his football fraternity, featuring several heartfelt greetings, because we have all lived through the "dark side" of football.

Was his firing right or wrong? I will leave that up to the water-cooler chatter.

All I can say is that I wish LaPolice and his family well and hope he enjoys the next two years of vacation courtesy of the Bombers.

End of Story Content

Back to accessibility links

Story Social Media

End of Story Social Media

Comments are closed.