General manager Kyle Walters knows what he wants to see in a new coach for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
“We need a leader, we need a strong personality, we need someone that the players are going to want to play for and be driven to succeed,” he said Tuesday, as the Bombers made his appointment official.
Walters, who started the season as assistant general manager, has been doing the big job on an interim basis since the team fired former general manager Joe Mack mid-season.
The team also dumped head coach Tim Burke at the end of the 2013 campaign, after his first full season in a job vacated by the firing of Paul LaPolice mid-2012.
Burke left on good terms — he even received what sounded a lot like an invitation to apply for his old job as defensive co-ordinator — but after a 3-15 finish, his departure was no surprise.
“(His replacement) has to fit into the way we think,” said Walters.
“I think it’s imperative that management and the head coach are all on the same page so there’s a unified message.”
A few names have been bandied about, including former Winnipeg quarterback Khari Jones, but Walters refused to comment on any speculation.
A new coach may be top shelf but getting the team’s scouting department operational, landing a new quarterback and improving Canadian content all rank high on Walters list as well.
On the Canadian content front, Walters said Wednesday that linebacker Henoc Muamba will be getting workouts from NFL teams. The Bombers and their top Canadian have been negotiating a possible new contract for months.
He wished Muamba well, but if he goes south it will be another blow for a team that is still face down on their new turf at Investors Group Field.
At quarterback, they opened 2013 with the oft-injured Buck Pierce as their starter and understudies Justin Goltz, Max Hall and Chase Clement.
As they struggled game after game, Pierce was traded to the B.C. Lions, Goltz went from starter to Hall’s backup, Clement was cut and they brought in other candidates in hopes of finding a better option.
They didn’t and are still looking. The Ottawa expansion draft is generating hope an established CFL quarterback will pop loose.
But, at the same time, Walters admits a new team in the league doesn’t make rebuilding the Bombers any easier.
“I guess just simple arithmetic suggests that with a ninth team in the league, that the players will be in higher demand.”
The RedBlacks also have to build from the ground up, he noted.
This is Walters first shot at general manager, although he has 12 years experience in the CFL as a player, coach and, most recently, assistant GM in Winnipeg.
Team president Wade Miller said he looked at all available candidates and felt Walters was the best.
While he could understand fan skepticism of a first-time general manager who came from the outside, Miller said it’s a different case with Walters.
“I was able to work with Kyle every day and from day one, very impressed with his plans for the Ottawa expansion,” he said.
“And (he) was doing all of those things anyway for the organization, was managing the salary cap and was pretty well doing the entire role.”
He admitted it certainly doesn’t hurt that, unlike Mack, Walters lives full-time in Winnipeg with his wife Rena and children Lawson and Taylor.
Miller also had his title confirmed after the season ended. Former president Garth Buchko was sacked along with Mack.
While Miller, unlike Buchko, is a former Bomber and has a football background, he insisted he’ll be leaving the running of the football operation to Walters.
Walters joined the Bombers in 2010 and served as Canadian college draft co-ordinator and special teams co-ordinator, after four seasons as the head coach of the University of Guelph Gryphons, his alma mater.
The native of St. Thomas, Ont., played seven seasons at safety and halfback with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
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