Blue Bombers bury Berry

Doug Berry reacts to his firing during a press conference at the Bombers' office. (Sun Media/Marcel...

Doug Berry reacts to his firing during a press conference at the Bombers' office. (Sun Media/Marcel Cretain)

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

The ink was not even dry on Doug Berry's walking papers when reliable sources confirmed Mike Kelly will be offered the job as head coach in Winnipeg.

Make that head coach and GM of the Blue Bombers.

Bombers president/CEO Lyle Bauer not only confirmed yesterday that Berry has been relieved of his duties but suggested that GM Brendan Taman has been demoted.

That would pave the way for Kelly -- a former Bomber offensive co-ordinator and long-time friend of Bauer's who is currently the receivers coach with the Edmonton Eskimos -- or any other candidate to be offered the dual position.

Berry, meanwhile, is coming off a season where the Bombers posted an 8-10 record -- sixth overall in the CFL -- and a loss at home in the Eastern semifinal. That came one year after a Grey Cup appearance.

"We came off a season that certainly didn't make expectations," Bauer said. "We do believe our football team could be better. There are things that can be renovated and changed to make that happen."

Those are hiring a new head man and "re-defining" Taman's role with the club, meaning his responsibilities will likely be reduced to those of director of player personnel. Bauer, however, declined to elaborate.

Bauer, meanwhile, suggested that the club was unhappy with some of the ways Berry conducted himself.

"Many things changed on the field," Bauer said. "The record, the start and coming down the pipe, we were certainly very inconsistent ... There were some things that probably happened on and off the field this year that certainly didn't mesh with the culture of this organization."

While Berry said that he did not know what Bauer meant, speculation is that the way he handled the whole Troy Westwood situation and the kickers who followed after the veteran kicker was released left a sour taste. Whispers are that the club was also unhappy with some public criticism of individual players, including quarterback Kevin Glenn after the semifinal loss.

Berry also took the special teams into his own hands last year but remained loyal to his specials teams coach. He did the same this season with the offence.

Berry, who has never ducked media scrutiny, made himself available to a horde shortly after Bauer announced his firing.

Bauer, he said, handed him his termination letter without giving him an explanation for the move.

"I'm not angry," said Berry, 60. "I know what this business and profession is. I'm probably a little more shocked than I am angry, that's for sure. I've been in this coaching profession for a long time and I've seen a lot better coaches than myself being in a situation like this. Hopefully, I'll have an opportunity to come back and prove my worth in some other situation in some other city.

"There was really no reason given ... For me, the only understanding is that I didn't reach the goal that I wanted for this football team and that was to repeat and go back to the Grey Cup as we did in '07. We fell short of that objective and obviously, management felt the same way."

Berry, however, denied that the players had lost confidence in him.

"You look at the way we finished," he said of the club's 6-2 record down the stretch. "If I had lost the locker-room and lost the team, we never would have finished as strong as we did."

Berry signed a three-year contract extension before the past season and, barring a buyout clause, the club is on the hook for the final two years. Bauer, however, declined to discuss those details.

Taman, who will continue to scout and negotiate player contracts, was unavailable for comment.


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