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Winnipeg Blue Bombers give head coach Paul LaPolice two-year extension

03/20/2012 01:15 EDT | Updated 05/20/2012 05:12 EDT
WINNIPEG - Paul LaPolice got some well-deserved job security Tuesday.

After taking the Winnipeg Blue Bombers from the CFL basement to the Grey Cup game, LaPolice was rewarded with a two-year contract extension.

The deal will keep him at the helm through the 2014 season.

LaPolice, 41, took over for fired Mike Kelly after the 2009 season. The Bombers struggled to a league-low 4-14 record in 2010, but won the East Division last season with a 10-8 mark and lost 34-23 to the B.C. Lions in the Grey Cup.

Bombers general manager Joe Mack said the turnaround was even more of an achievement because of the death last July of assistant head coach and defensive line coach Richard Harris.

"Paul was able to guide us through that," Mack said. "And to get first place and get to the Grey Cup, I think speaks to itself.

"I think he’s an up-and-coming young head coach and I think he merited and deserved that extension."

Before introducing the rest of his staff Tuesday, LaPolice said he's ''looking forward to moving forward."

"I want to be here and I want to continue to help build this club into a winning organization and build it into a consistent winner," he said.

A finalist last year for coach of the year, LaPolice said he’s always believed in his abilities as a head coach.

"Now I’m more comfortable because I think, myself, I understand the role a little bit more," he said. "And I’ve certainly got people that I really trust across the board on the staff. I understand how to utilize them better … I believe in the players we have and Joe Mack."

LaPolice's staff includes three new members.

Gary Crowton takes over as offensive co-ordinator after decades working at U.S. colleges and also in the NFL. He replaces Jamie Barresi, who was fired just days after the Grey Cup loss.

Chip Garber joins the club as linebackers coach after two seasons as the Toronto Argonauts’ defensive co-ordinator, while Will Plemons left the U.S. college ranks to become the new defensive line coach.

Remaining on the staff is defensive co-ordinator and defensive backs coach Tim Burke, offensive line coach Pat DelMonaco, special teams co-ordinator and running backs coach Kyle Walters and Markus Howell, who moves to receivers coach from the defensive line.

LaPolice noted all the coaches except for Garber, who has a farm in Texas, have committed to living in Winnipeg year-round.

The biggest impact from the changes may be felt on offence, which was criticized as being the team’s inconsistent link.

LaPolice took the brunt of that criticism because he did the play calling rather than Barresi.

He expects Crowton to handle those chores and bounce ideas off him.

"I certainly envision Gary Crowton, who has called plays in the NFL and had one of the best passing offences in the NFL for a couple years and called offences for his entire career, to be able to call the plays," LaPolice said.

Crowton, 54, began his coaching career in 1982 as a student assistant with Brigham Young University. His first head-coaching job was at Louisiana Tech University from 1996 to '98.

After spending 1999-2000 as offensive co-ordinator of the NFL's Chicago Bears, he moved on to become the head coach at Brigham Young from 2001 to 2004.

He was also the offensive co-ordinator at the University of Oregon (2005-06), Louisiana State University (2007-10) and the University of Maryland last season.

Although he was quarterbacks coach at Boston College after former pivot Doug Flutie left the campus, he said he followed his CFL career and is familiar with the game.

He’s been beefing up his studies of the three-down game and is confident he’ll be able to call the plays and live under the microscope.

"I’ve been under a lot of scrutiny through the years," Crowton said. "I feel like that’s part of the game, that’s part of the way I live my life is with high expectations on myself, high expectations on the players, high expectations with the team."

Burke, who was up for the head-coaching job in Hamilton, was happy to remain in the Bombers fold.

And while coaches take the attitude they’re coaching year to year, he was glad to see LaPolice get an extension.

"Paul’s a very high-character guy," Burke said. "That definitely translates through the organization, through the coaching staff and down through the players.

"He’s a guy that you can trust and he’s very intelligent. All those things combine to make him a good head coach."

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