Old friend returns?

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:08 AM ET

Hiring Mike Kelly as the new head man to replace Doug Berry will make up for past sins.

The former Blue Bombers offensive co-ordinator was passed over as head coach when Jeff Reinebold was hired to replace the deposed Cal Murphy in 1997 -- with deplorable results.

Now the receivers coach of the Edmonton Eskimos, Kelly has admitted that he felt that job should have been his. Kelly has remained friends with Bomber president/CEO Lyle Bauer, who was the assistant GM back then, and had been contacted several times when the position was open here before. He was unavailable those times.

But reliable CFL sources confirmed that Bauer will offer Kelly the job which became vacant yesterday. They apparently discussed the hypothetical possibility when the Eskimos were in Winnipeg.

Kelly, however, is still under contract to the Eskimos, who are preparing to play the Montreal Alouettes in the CFL East Final this Saturday.

"Please understand that, right now, I don't want any distractions for my receivers and this football team," Kelly said in an e-mail. "The focus should be on them and not me as we head into this weekend ... That really is the best I can do."

But Kelly did not deny the possibility.

"I am always interested in advancing my career and the betterment of my family," said Kelly, whose two daughters were born in Winnipeg.

There are also rumours that Kelly could hire former Bomber quarterback Matt Dunigan as his offensive co-ordinator here. Although they had a falling out after once coaching at Valdosta State together, they have apparently patched up their differences.

The popular Kelly was Winnipeg's offensive co-ordinator from 1992 to 1996 when the Bombers won the East three times and lost two Grey Cup games. Dunigan was the quarterback for some of those years.

Kelly also coached in both the NFL and XFL, and has been employed as a pro personnel assistant for the Washington Redskins.

Kelly would also take over a promising team in Winnipeg.

"I feel good that I think I'm leaving here with a number of players still intact and certainly a better situation for the next head coach," said Berry, who could be a candidate for the job in Toronto.

If for whatever reason it doesn't work out with Kelly, other potential candidates include current Bomber defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall, Calgary offensive guru George Cortez and Saskatchewan defensive boss Richie Hall.


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