Righting an old wrong

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:04 AM ET

Maybe it's time to correct an old oversight.

You don't often get a second chance to make something right, but perhaps Winnipeg Blue Bomber president/CEO Lyle Bauer is getting an opportunity to do just that.

Oh, it's about improving his football team, too, of course. That goes without saying.

Firing head coach Doug Berry, just five months after signing him to a contract extension, validates those, including Troy Westwood, who said Berry had lost his team before the season even started.

If 0-4 and 1-6 and 2-8 didn't scream it, then an early exit from the playoffs did.

Berry's downfall: his inability to see, and nip in the bud, the complacency that had crept into his team like a cancer.

It didn't help that he cut a kicker because he didn't like him -- before he had a better replacement in the wings -- or that he had a bad habit of singling out players for criticism, either in the media or by letting them rot on the bench.

In short, he fell short in the leadership category.

"There were some things that happened on and off the field with this organization this year that did not necessarily mesh with the culture of this organization," is how Bauer described it.

Canning Berry took guts, though, not to mention a couple hundred thousand dollars. Maybe Bauer can defer that bill to incoming owner, David Asper.

At the same time, he can tell Asper the rest of his master plan, if he hasn't already.

Bauer has his sights set on old friend Mike Kelly.

Remember the name?

Kelly was former Bomber coach/GM Cal Murphy's highly-regarded offensive co-ordinator in the 1990s, and the likely successor when Kindly Cal's number came up.

Only Bauer, Murphy's assistant GM back then, wasn't around to make sure it happened, bolting for the grain business a year before Murphy was fired following the '96 season.

The Bomber board, a group of well-meaning but non-football-minded volunteers, steered as clear of Murphy as they could and hired the anti-Cal, Jeff Reinebold.

Kelly was devastated, the Bombers took years to recover from 4-14 and 3-15 seasons and the question, "What if?" lingered on everybody's lips.

A dozen years later, we might get an answer.

Nobody with the Bombers was even saying Kelly's name out loud yesterday, but the scenario is too perfect to ignore: Bauer back and in charge, his good friend Kelly back in the CFL as an assistant in Edmonton, after several pro and college stints down south -- available and eager, having never quite gotten over the fact he was overlooked the first time.

Why did it take so long, you wonder?

Kelly wasn't available the last two times Bauer and Co. needed a new coach, including three years ago when Berry took over from Jim Daley.

"When we hired Doug, we believed he was the best coach available at that time," Bauer said.

CFL insiders say Kelly has been on Bauer's radar for a while, ever since it became clear extending Berry's deal was a mistake.

By the time the Eskimos came to town for the East semifinal, Bauer, we're told, had made up his mind: if the Bombers crashed and burned in the playoffs, he'd make the move.

It's an intriguing second marriage.

And it leaves a broken heart or two strewn along the way.

Berry, of course, believes he got the shaft, severance payout notwithstanding.

A bright mind who just needs some polish, he may get a second chance.

Bomber GM Brendan Taman, meanwhile, must feel like the cat with nine lives. Part of three coach firings now, Taman loses some power, but not his paycheque. A sharp personnel man, he'll be the new coach's right-hand man, but not his boss.

Through it all, Bomber fans are left to wonder if they're any closer to ending an 18-year Grey Cup drought.

Now there's a wrong somebody around here had better right, soon.

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QUICK HITS:

"Some Philadelphia Flyers in search of added energy have taken to wearing titanium necklaces, the same ones big-league pitchers swear by. Plan B, we assume, is wearing garters and breathing through their eyelids."

-- Dwight Perry, Seattle Times

"To give you an idea of how long that is, 1983 also was the year Brett Favre came out of junior-high retirement to play his freshman year of high-school football."

-- Tony Augusty of The Detroit News, on the New York Jets beating the St. Louis Rams for the first time in 25 years.

"I knew we were in trouble when I looked at the monitor and saw a monkey scratching its butt."

-- A member of Jimmie Johnson's NASCAR team to the Associated Press. Johnson was about to capture his third straight driving title when ABC cut away from Sunday's race in Phoenix to air "America's Funniest Home Videos."

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SAY WHAT?!?!

"I have been a backup for eight years. So if there's 32 teams in the league times eight years, that's 256 times that teams have said, 'This guy is not our starter.' So, yeah, I think there are some (naysayers) out there."

Texans QB Sage Rosenfels, to the Houston Chronicle.

NUMBERS GAME

1-16

That's the record of the Detroit Lions in the last 17 games. The team has never been in a Super Bowl and since winning the NFL Championship in 1957, they've only made the playoffs NINE times. The one team the Lions didn't lose to in the last 17 games? The Kansas City Chiefs.

OFFBEAT

Boxers have long complained about being robbed in the ring. Well, now the ring itself has been stolen. The ring at Glass City Boxing in Toledo, Ohio, was stolen sometime Sunday, WNWO-TV reported. Trainer Tom Urbina says if the ring is not returned, the gym may have to cancel upcoming boxing shows. Urbina is urging anyone with information on the ring's whereabouts to contact police.


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