Mike Kelly has absolute confidence that he'll be back as head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers next season.

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This article was published 9/11/2009 (4410 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Bombers coach Mike Kelly talks on Monday about the season gone and the one to come.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Bombers coach Mike Kelly talks on Monday about the season gone and the one to come.

Mike Kelly has absolute confidence that he'll be back as head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers next season.

Kelly, hired this past off-season to replace fired coach Doug Berry, led the Bombers to a 7-11 record -- not good enough to qualify for the CFL's post-season tournament.

The Bombers had an opportunity to reach the playoffs with a win on Sunday but were awful in a 39-17 loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Kelly and his players were at Canad Inns Stadium on Monday morning cleaning out their lockers and having exit interviews with the coaching staff.

Kelly was asked if he expected to be back next season and the first-year head coach was ready with his answer.

"I know damn well I'll be back. I'm not going anywhere," stated Kelly. "I came here to do a job and in case you hadn't noticed I have quite a bit of passion about this job. I used the analogy this morning that today is like the day we found out my oldest daughter had to have her pancreas removed. Initially there is shock, there is anger, there is fear and tremendous disappointment. Then you have to get yourself through that, grab yourself by the boots and figure out how are we going to get this right and how are we going to make this better. That's where I am right now. I got rid of the sorrow part last night and today is about getting ready for 2010."

Kelly was asked how he knew he'd be back and if CEO Lyle Bauer or the board had told him as much.

"I'll be back. I'll be back," said Kelly, before being asked what he based his statement on. "Because of what we did in this building. How things are set up on that side of the building. The type of culture we created. The type of players we brought in. All the things we wanted to address this year, we addressed. We were better on special teams. We were better in the secondary, our receiving corps was better, our line, which everyone was up in arms about when players chose to leave, ended up playing very well. We addressed a lot of needs. I think what we've done speaks volumes for what's going to happen here over the next couple of years. We know we have a couple of things to address -- we get those things addressed and things are going to be just fine."

Whether Bauer and the Bombers board of directors agree remains to be seen.

Bauer declined an interview request from the Free Press, stating that Monday was about the 'players and coaches.'

Bombers veteran receiver Terrence Edwards believes firing Kelly at this point would be a mistake and that most of the growing pains are behind this group of players and coaches.

"I'll put our roster up against anyone. I feel we have the talent in this room to get things done. You can't say any other team is better when it comes to talent. They've just played together longer. If we can have a training camp with no distractions and just come in with a clean slate and get focused from Game 1, I think we can be a team to be reckoned with," said Edwards.

"The coaching staff will be a year older and I think coach Kelly will be a way better head coach next year. He learned a lot this year. I think the people of Winnipeg should give him a chance. I think he's the right guy for this job. He's a passionate coach and that's what you want in a head coach. A guy who is going to bite the bullet for you and is willing to stick his neck out for you, and he did a lot of that this year."

Kelly says the vibe among his players is positive and they all want a chance to be together next season.

"I'm doing exit interviews with the players and nobody wants to go home because we enjoy each other so much. They're very, very positive about this off-season and going into a training camp where we all know each other," said 51-year-old Kelly. "We'll get some things straightened out schematically and there will be some personnel changes. The core guys that we know will be back, that young group of players that carried us so well, we all know that we're going to have rings with Ws on them real soon."

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

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