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Over a week after their season ended, Bombers fire head coach Tim Burke, start a coaching search

Andrew Bucholtz
55 Yard Line

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The Bombers officially fired head coach Tim Burke Wednesday.

It's not particularly surprising that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have elected to fire head coach Tim Burke; after all, Burke went just 3-15 this year and just 4-6 in an interim role last season, making him more Gary Cherone than Sammy Hagar. With the team making plenty of offseason changes, including hiring a new full general manager, it always seemed unlikely that Burke would be back again. However, the timing here is interesting. The Bombers waited over a week after the season's final game to part ways with Burke, but still did so before putting a new general manager in place. That's a curious mix of action and inaction, and it doesn't necessarily suggest things will get better under the team's new management.

Offseason CFL coach firings typically happen right after the season wraps up, as we saw with the Edmonton Eskimos and Kavis Reed. That works best on many levels; it allows the fired coaches to move on, rather than twist in the wind, and it allows the team to start looking at other options. The Bombers' delay here appears to have been related to the status of Wade Miller, who only had the "acting" removed from his president and CEO tag Tuesday, so on his part, it's understandable that he'd want to wait to find out if he'll be back himself before firing the head coach. It's odd that the Bombers didn't make a decision on Miller until over a week after the season ended, though. No new information should have been found in that week, so why couldn't the team's board have decided what to do about Miller before or soon after the final game? That would have avoided a week where no one really knew their status.

Meanwhile, if the team was trying to be patient and make a cautious decision on their coach and general manager, why not go all the way and wait until after the Grey Cup when every candidate becomes available? A move midway between the season and the Grey Cup doesn't make a ton of sense, as it creates the problem of uncertain job status for existing coaches without the benefits of an open candidate pool. If the Bombers weren't going to bring Burke back, fine, but it's odd to see that decision made at this time, and also to see it made by the (only-recently-confirmed) CEO, not the general manager. It sounds like Miller's going to let his general manager hire the next coach, which would be a welcome move towards normalcy, but we'll see how that goes.

Did Burke deserve to stick around? Not particularly. His 3-15 record this year was far from inspiring, and although that's definitely not all on him thanks to the poor roster construction under the Joe Mack/Garth Buchko regime (both of whom were axed midseason under odd circumstances themselves), he did plenty to add to the Bombers' problems. He couldn't pick a quarterback and stick with him to allow development, instead going from Buck Pierce to Justin Goltz to Max Hall to Jason Boltus without getting too far with any of them, and he couldn't find ways to get the offence working. (Some of that was on previous offensive coordinator Gary Crowton, fired midseason, but things didn't improve dramatically even when experienced CFL mind Marcel Bellefeuille took over.) The defence also slumped under Burke and coordinator Casey Creehan, who might have been last offseason's strangest hire after his historically-bad year in Hamilton.

Perhaps most damningly, though, Burke's uberconservative in-game coaching decisions (see "Take A Knee") often hurt the team and helped keep their win totals down. Burke wasn't able to adapt when things weren't working, and although the team's struggles were far from all his fault, he played a role in them. It's not unexpected that he won't be back. It's still unfortunate that he had to twist in the wind for a week before learning his job status, though.

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