Newly-appointed Winnipeg Blue Bomber president and CEO Wade Miller made the first decision of the 2013 off-season, firing Tim Burke as head coach on Nov. 13.
The move comes after Burke—in his first full season as head coach—led the Bombers to their worst record since 1998. Burke’s move from defensive co-ordinator to head coach appears to have been a mistake As the Bombers’ defensive co-ordinator, Burke was the strategic mastermind behind the “Swaggerville” defence that made it to the Grey Cup in 2011.
In his media release, Miller appeared to address Burke’s value as a defensive co-ordinator, stating, “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.”
Currently, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Edmonton, and Montreal are all searching for a new head coach. Here are Winnipeg’s top candidates for the opening:
1. Marcel Bellefeuille
Bellefeuille was brought in to replace Gary Crowton as Blue Bomber offensive co-ordinator midway through the 2013 season. Bellefeuille has 18 years of coaching experience, including three years as head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, from 2008-2011. Seeing as he’s already on the payroll, if Miller and company were satisfied with his performance as offensive co-ordinator, he would be the easiest pick.
2. Khari Jones
Khari Jones is a Winnipeg legend. Although he never won a Grey Cup in Winnipeg, he played pass and catch with Milt Stegall in his prime and was part of some very exciting Bomber teams in the early 2000s. While his performances on the field cemented him as a quarterback legend, Jones doesn’t have the coaching portfolio the Bombers should be looking for during such an important rebuild. He only has four years of coaching experience – three as a quarterbacks coach and one year as an offensive co-ordinator. He started his coaching career as support staff to the Bellefeuille-led Ti-Cats. If the Bombers tap Bellefeuille, Jones may join as offensive coordinator.
3. Jacques Chapdelaine
Chapdelaine is arguably the most sought-after interviewee for the position of head coach heading into this off-season. With over 10 years of coaching and offensive co-ordinating experience – including two Grey Cup rings as offensive co-ordinator for the B.C. Lions in 2006 and 2011, the 52-year-old Canadian has potential to be the next great CFL head coach. Unfortunately for the Bombers, he’s going to be highly sought after. This means he might be less inclined to join the mess in Winnipeg when he could spearhead a fresh start in Ottawa or help the Alouettes out of their post-Calvillo funk.
4. Milt Stegall
In response to Burke’s firing, Stegall took to Twitter with the following message:
“The Bombers need a head coach. I’m finally ready to make that move. Wade Miller you owe me an interview. If not me, WHO should it be?”
Stegall has always been quick with jokes, and he was clearly having some fun with the tweet. Besides, have we learned nothing from Wayne Gretzky’s stint behind the bench for Phoenix? Being the greatest to ever play the game doesn’t mark you as a capable coach.
5. Paul LaPolice
If Miller talks about bringing Burke back on as defensive co-ordinator, then why not continue to undo all of former GM Joe Mack’s mistakes by bringing back LaPolice? After leading the Bombers to an unexpected Grey Cup berth in 2011, LaPolice was unceremoniously fired by Mack. Since his dismissal, he’s been a regular contributor to TSN’s CFL broadcasts as a coaching analyst.