Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Kelly Says He's Staying

WINNIPEG -- Many Blue Bomber fans want controversial rookie head coach Mike Kelly ousted, but their target is confident they won't get their wish.

"I know damn well I'll be back," Kelly told reporters Monday, a day after his 7-11 team was eliminated from the CFL playoffs. "I'm not going anywhere. I came here to do a job. I have, in case you hadn't noticed, a little bit of passion about this job."

When asked why he knows he'll return and if the community-owned team's board of directors has told him he'll be back, Kelly pointed to improvements that were made.

The special teams was better and so was the secondary and an offensive line that had holes entering the season, he noted.

"We addressed a lot of needs," said Kelly, who's believed to have two guaranteed years and an option left on his contract.

"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, and we get those things addressed and things will be just fine here."

Bombers president and CEO Lyle Bauer declined any comment.

Kelly, who replaced Doug Berry after he was fired following last season's 8-10 campaign and semifinal loss, did admit to some professional and personal mistakes during his rookie reign.

He was sometimes rude and abrupt with the media and fans and was recently fined $2,000 by the league for his "continued pattern of disrespectful behaviour towards the media."

Kelly said he should have had a veteran quarterback heading into training camp and should have watched his words more carefully.

"Probably the thing that I'm the least proud of is, you know what, I'm going to speak my mind and sometimes it rubs people the wrong way," Kelly, 51, said.

"But probably choose my words a little bit better than what I did. But probably still make the same point, just do it in a different manner."

Kelly cut nine-year veteran QB Kevin Glenn in the off-season and went with first-time starter Stefan LeFors. Kelly said he tried to keep Glenn, but he turned down an "altered" contract.

It was a Glenn-led Hamilton Tiger-Cats squad (9-9) that bounced the Bombers out of the playoffs with a 39-17 win Sunday, leaving the B.C. Lions (8-10) to cross over into third place in the East Division with its better record.

It was the first time Winnipeg has missed the playoffs since 2005 under Jim Daley.

When the Bombers opened the season with a 1-3 record, eight-year QB Michael Bishop was signed, but the offence was still hot and cold.

Kelly said he wants Bishop back and will look at the QBs they still have and others who may be out there. There will also be adjustments to the offensive system.

He believes the team will be better when a familiar group is together from the outset of training camp.

His players were backing him as they cleaned out their lockers and had final meetings with coaching staff.

Slotback Terrence Edwards said he hasn't heard any of his teammates say a bad word about Kelly and that's why they never quit on him.

"I think coach Kelly will be a way better head coach next year," Edwards predicted. "I think he has learned a lot and I think people in Winnipeg, just 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 from your head coach."

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but he believes the offence with Bishop can be good next season.

Bishop completed 204 of 405 pass attempts (50.4 per cent) for 3,035 yards with 15 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in 14 games.

"I don't think we need to overhaul anything," said Edwards, who was second in team receiving with 52 catches for 816 yards and five TDs.

"I think Michael is the guy who can get it done. I think the offensive line is a group that can get it done. I know the receivers are talented. We have one of the best backs in the league.

"We've just got to jell more. I don't think we jelled as well as we should have. I think with another training camp, we'll jell together, get our chemistry together and we'll be fine."

The Bombers have six players heading into free agency: offensive lineman Ryan Donnelly, receiver Aaron Hargreaves, cornerback James Johnson, CB/kick returner Jovon Johnson, who's the team nominee for most outstanding player and most outstanding special teams player, defensive end Pat MacDonald and placekicker Alexis Serna.

Serna made 40 of 49 field-goal attempts for 81.6 per cent, which broke the team record of 80.4 per cent set by Troy Westwood in 1993.

Westwood came in to do the team's punting late this season after Mike Renaud was injured and said he'd like to come back and compete for the job.

Serna said he can't take much satisfaction from his improvement over last season (66.7 per cent) because it's all about winning. Last year, Berry often confronted Serna when he struggled.

"Coach Kelly is a great coach and I'd gladly play for him any day," Serna said.

One player who may not return is veteran linebacker Barrin Simpson, who demanded a trade during the season after he was asked to play a reduced role.

"We'll see," Simpson said when asked if he wanted to come back.

Describing his season as "frustrating at best," he said he wants the team to let him know his future as soon as possible.

"I think that's a must, as far as being able to move forward and move on," Simpson said.

Despite suffering from a turf-toe injury that was part of his dispute with the club, Simpson led the team with 84 defensive tackles after missing five games.

Nine-year defensive tackle Doug Brown knows changes always happen, but he hopes not too much on defence.

"Defensively, I think the guys are a pretty determined, resilient bunch and one of the more talented groups I've played with in my career up here," Brown said.

Winnipeg's defence finished with a league-high 31 interceptions, while its offence allowed the fewest QB sacks (26).

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