Kyle Walters knew there was a problem.
He heard the complaints and confusion from jilted Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterbacks Justin Goltz and Buck Pierce after Monday’s practice and the criticism of the decision to make Max Hall the club’s new starter. When Walters was named acting general manager Tuesday, those comments exemplified exactly what he feels needs to change within the organization.
“That will not happen,” Walters said at his introductory news conference. “The way you stop that from happening is be open and honest.
“I was a former player, I was a former head coach. You look players in the eye, you tell them matter-of-fact, ‘This is where you fit in, this is why.’ Players don’t necessarily have to agree or like the news but I’ve found they respect and accept their roles and buy in and that’s what needs to happen.”
Walters promised better internal communication amid the turmoil of Winnipeg’s 1-5 start and firing of GM Joe Mack and CEO Garth Buchko. That includes “having much more open lines of communication” with coach Tim Burke.
“All the decisions moving forward will be a collaborative effort,” Walters said. “As a whole organizational infrastructure from top to bottom we will be much more open with our communication, keeping everybody in the loop on all decisions.”
In theory, that also means a collaborative effort in setting the depth chart. Walters said Burke has the authority to do that and change it as he sees fit.
Walters’ immediate focus is to maintain the normal course of football operations. That includes communicating with U.S. scouts, working on extensions for impending free agents and preparing for the off-season and December dispersal draft.
“Just make sure that things continue to run smoothly in our organization is what my main objective is short-term,” he said.
Whether Walters, a former head coach of the Guelph Gryphons, is around longterm to run the Blue Bombers’ football operation remains to be seen. Acting CEO Wade Miller expressed confidence in Walters’ ability to know the team and its inner workings but made no promises he’ll be the GM beyond this season.
“We’re still going to look at the end of the year to find and make sure we do an exhaustive search for a general manager, and Kyle will definitely be one of the top candidates for that role,” Miller said. “No matter where we go with that search, he will be part of this organization going forward and start providing some stability to the football operations.”
Walters had served as Winnipeg’s assistant GM after spending three years on the coaching staff. He won a Grey Cup as a safety with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1999.
Miller said the football decisions would be made by Walters and Burke, explaining that the demarcation of duties was an ongoing process.
“This is a change that this organization’s going through where we actually work together and proper people are making the right decisions now in charge of players, who’s playing each week, and we’re getting to that process of getting the roles defined where we can all work together,” Miller said.
Ideally, more defined roles will keep issues like Monday’s confusing quarterback upheaval to a minimum. Goltz said the situation was “poorly managed” and that he felt betrayed while Pierce said “a lot of people (in the organization) are making decisions very quickly.”
Walters insisted he spoke with players to iron out the problem.
“From a management standpoint, yes, my concern was that it appeared as though the communication at some level was not where it needed to be and that’s been addressed and fixed today,” he said. “I can assure you of that.”