Berry Xmas for Bombers

Doug Berry, who will be named the next head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, has coached in...

Doug Berry, who will be named the next head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, has coached in Montreal the last seven years. (Sun Media/Pablo Durant)

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:47 AM ET

Doug Berry will be introduced as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers new head coach this afternoon.

Berry, who has been the Montreal Alouettes co-offensive co-ordinator and quarterbacks coach for the past three seasons, has reached an agreement with the Bombers and is scheduled to sign his contract this morning.

No one from the Bomber organization would confirm the news, but when the Sun contacted the Berry home in Massachusetts last night, a family member said he was on his way to Winnipeg.

He was expected to arrive in the Manitoba capital from Minneapolis just before midnight.

Berry, 57, becomes the 26th head coach in Winnipeg Football Club history. He follows Jim Daley, who was fired on Nov. 8 after the Bombers finished the 2005 CFL campaign with a 5-13 record and missed the playoffs for the second year in a row.

"There may be a market or two in the CFL that some people would perceive as 'Uh, I don't know about that job,' but Winnipeg's foundation is solid, and it looks like they're willing to win," Berry told the Sun on Dec. 8 after his first interview with Bombers GM Brendan Taman.

"... Just these last two years have taken a backwards turn, but there's enough people in place from management on down to make this a nice job. That's why I'm interested."

It's believed Berry got the nod over former Ottawa Renegades defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall and Calgary Stampeders associate head coach-defensive co-ordinator Denny Creehan.

Berry was a bit of a mystery when the coaching search began, but that's what happens when you work under media magnet Don Matthews for four seasons.

One look at Berry's resume, however, makes him stand out. He arrived in Montreal in 1999 as the offensive line coach, and three Alouettes -- Uzooma Okeke (1999), Pierre Vercheval (2000) and Bryan Chiu (2002) -- were named the CFL's most outstanding offensive linemen under his watch.

His O-line also helped Mike Pringle win the league's rushing title in both 1999 and 2000, and the Alouettes won the Grey Cup in 2002.

Berry became Montreal's co-offensive co-ordinator (Kevin Strasser was the other) and quarterbacks coach in 2003, which is when Als quarterback Anthony Calvillo posted a career-high 5,891 passing yards and 37 touchdowns.

Calvillo set another personal best in 2004 with 6,041 passing yards and added 5,556 to his career total this season. Calvillo led the league in passing yards in each of those seasons.

"As an offensive co-ordinator, they did a good job incorporating new plays and wrinkles into the stuff we do every week," Dave Mudge, a former Bomber and current Alouette offensive lineman, said last night. "They did a great job of that this year.

"... He'd be a good coach. He's experienced. He's had the respect of the guys on that team."

Berry spent 17 seasons (from 1981 to 1997) as an assistant with the University of Massachusetts Minutemen football team before becoming the running backs coach at the University of Richmond in Virginia in 1998.

He spent only one year at Richmond before moving north to join the Alouettes.

Berry, who did two years of active duty in the U.S. Army in the early 1970s, began his coaching career in 1976 at the University of New Hampshire (his alma mater), and he worked with Penn State's offensive line in 1978, the year it played in the NCAA national championship game.

He then spent two years coaching Boston College's offensive line before moving on to his 17-year stay at UMass.

Berry's hiring might bode well for Bombers offensive co-ordinator Mike Gibson, who has been in limbo since Daley's firing because he's in the middle of a two-year contract.

The good news for Gibson is that he has known Berry since the mid-1980s when they were both assistants in Massachusetts -- Berry at UMass and Gibson at Boston University.

- With files from Paul Friesen


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