'I know damn well I'll be back. I'm not going anywhere' -- Bomber coach Mike Kelly

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This article was published 14/11/2009 (4328 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Opinion

'I know damn well I'll be back. I'm not going anywhere' -- Bomber coach Mike Kelly

I'VE got a bulletin for the Mouth of Maroons Road.

Your future with the Bomb­ers isn't in the bag. Although, from what I hear, it could be if some members of the board of directors can arrange to put you in one.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, much the way Lyle Bauer did when he assured the media this week that the first-year Bomber head coach will be returning for Season Two of his three-year contract.

First, I need to answer the phone.

* * *

It's shortly after 8 a.m. Friday and the Free Press switchboard has put an angry man through to the city desk.

He wants to talk to someone in the sports department.

Nobody's in yet, so he gets me. As it turns out it didn't matter to the guy, because, in these parts, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are bigger than a sports story.

They're part of our collective community brand and our cul­ture. These days it's a bruised brand that looks more black and blue than Blue and Gold.

Which is why the guy is so angry.

It's actually not the Bomber team he's angry with, though.

It's the people who direct the operations of the CFL team, namely president and CEO Lyle Bauer, the 11-member board of directors and, oh yes, head coach Mike Kelly.

"I'm really disgusted," the cranky caller begins.

He's hardly alone.

It was bad enough the Bomb­ers didn't make the playoffs, but what's even worse is how and why they flopped, beginning with the rookie coach bringing in a rookie quarterback without a league veteran as a backup and mentor.

You know, the way the Ham­ilton Tiger-Cats did with Kevin Glenn, the quarterback Kelly didn't want on his team. And then there's the way Kelly, the team's leader, routinely reacted to being questioned, by open­ing his all-too-often aggressive, rude, arrogant, dismissive and controlling BIG mouth. That behaviour is based on the old the-best-defence-is-a good­offence routine, a strategy evoked, ironically, by a team whose best offence was too often its defence. This from a coach whose specialty was sup­posed to be offence.

But the team's performance on the field this season isn't what the guy on the phone is concerned with right now. It's the people who run the organ­ization and created the chaos that was the 2009 season that he wants held accountable.

As I was saying, he's not alone.

Where he may be in more of the minority, though, is who he lays the most blame on: the Bomber board of directors.

He feels they aren't exercising their responsibility, which, in the angry caller's mind, is to fire both Bauer and his buddy­hire hire Kelly.

Of course that would mean the Bombers, who fired Doug Berry last year with time on his contract, would also be paying a second head coach not to coach.

And maybe a CEO not to man­age.

Consider this quote when you're thinking about Bauer's role in all of this.

"There were some things that happened on and off the field in this organization this year that do not necessarily mesh with the culture of this organiza­tion."

That was Bauer talking.

Not this year, but last year when he was explaining part of the reason for firing Berry.

Bauer was referring to the way Berry treated his players.

But what about Kelly's dis­graceful treatment of the fans and anyone else he felt like verbally bashing?

That, to my mind, isn't repre­sentative of the Bomber culture I grew up admiring.

There have been crusty, outspoken Bomber coaches before who didn't get along with the media. But I can't remem­ber the fans being demeaned on radio, and certainly not the broadcasters.

As I was suggesting at the out­set, I'm told by someone close to the board that there is a camp within it that believes Kelly has to go. There's also another camp that doesn't, and probably some who will listen to both sides before casting their vote.

But you need to understand the board's role. It can't fire the coach. At least not directly.

That's Lyle Bauer's respon­sibility.

What it can do is fire Bauer, who is the board's hire, and let the next president and CEO make the coaching change.

That's not necessarily what's going to happen, of course.

Lyle Bauer still has to present the board with his full analysis of the lost season -- what went right, what went wrong and how he's going to make it better.

But if Bauer doesn't change his mind about Kelly, the camp that didn't like the coach's perform­ance might be willing to go looking for a new CEO.

Whatever happens, you can be assured the board has heard the fans.

They can't help hearing them. And the board is concerned about the team's future, as it should be.

David Asper's proposal to take over the team is at least two years away.

They can't wait to do what's best for the franchise and its fans.

What will make their delib­erations all the more difficult when they sit down together some time after the Grey Cup is the cost of keeping a classless coach versus the cost of cutting their losses and paying two head coaches not to coach.

There are some who say they can't afford to do that.

I say they can't afford not to.

Now it's just a question of how many board members feel the same way.

gordon.sinclair@freepress.mb.ca