Bitter? Not a bit

Former Bombers defensive co-ordinator and linebackers coach Greg Marshall still believes he was the...

Former Bombers defensive co-ordinator and linebackers coach Greg Marshall still believes he was the better man for the job when Lyle Bauer called on old pal Mike Kelly to be head coach. (JASON HALSTEAD/Sun Media file photo)

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:05 AM ET

The man on the other end of the line thinks he should have got the job that was handed to Mike Kelly a year ago.

As it was, Greg Marshall got only a token interview from Lyle Bauer, before the Blue Bombers CEO handed the head coaching gig to his old buddy.

But if you expect Marshall, now the Hamilton Tiger-Cats defensive co-ordinator, to come in here for tomorrow's big game guns a-blazing for being slighted, well, you just don't know Greg Marshall.

Still, you can't help but wonder if he ever wonders what might have been.

"When I left there I was disappointed, obviously, with the way things turned out," Marshall said from Hamilton yesterday. "I don't think it's any secret that was a done deal."

The day Bauer fired Doug Berry, reports swirled that he'd already chosen the man we affectionately call the Professor. Sure enough, that's what happened.

So Marshall, overlooked for the same head job twice -- he'd been the runner-up to Berry three years earlier -- took his bag of defensive tricks to the Steel City.

Tomorrow, he'll unpack them in Winnipeg for the first time since he left, and the irony is delicious: the offence he'll be trying to shut down is none other than the Professor's.

If he manages to throw a wrench into the Bombers works, Kelly and Co. face the humiliation of missing the playoffs.

How would you like them apples, Mr. Bauer?

"I'm not looking at it that way," Marshall said, his wry drawl, bordering on monotone, suggesting nothing else. "We're just trying to win a game so we can get a home playoff game. Coming off back-to-back, three-win seasons, it's been a long time since there's been a home playoff game here. It would be a real big deal for us."

A win would push the Tabbies across the finish line with a remarkable 9-9 mark, three more victories than the franchise had in the previous two years combined.

Marshall has played no small role in the turnaround, either.

The Ticats gave up a whopping 593 points a year ago, but are at just 411 today.

Their defence was ranked dead-last in '08, giving up 440 yards per game. It's ranked fourth this year, at 356 yards.

Sounds a bit like the year he took over the worst defence in CFL history (the '05 Bombers) and turned it into one of the league's best.

You wonder what might have been, had Marshall got the head job instead of Kelly. I'm guessing one thing -- just a shot in the dark, here -- the team's public relations wouldn't have taken nearly the beating.

Middle-finger salute

Marshall seems a little more, shall we say, predictable, his cross-field, middle-finger salute to former Montreal boss Don Matthews in '06 notwithstanding.

Marshall only wonders what might have been had the '07 season finished differently.

"I still say if Kevin Glenn doesn't break his arm in the Eastern Final, we're all wearing a Grey Cup ring," he said. "And everybody'd be there and we'd be happy.

"I know we took a step back last year, but we made some pretty good progress from the time we'd come in. So that was the disappointing part, that we weren't able to continue to build what we had started there."

That's about nostalgic as Marshall gets.

Sure, he's looking forward to competing with his old friends, like Bombers D-line coach Richard Harris.

But you don't get even a hint of bitterness.

Does that mean he'll look up Bauer for a chit-chat?

Marshall chuckled into the phone for a few moments.

"I deal with the coaches and the players," he said. "If we cross paths, we cross paths."

Oh, they're crossing paths, all right.

And it makes for a fascinating subplot to a Sunday afternoon full of them.

Contact Paul at paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca or 632-2788.


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