It's Kelly's offence

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:45 AM ET

So the Mike Kelly era is about to begin, and it won't be without a surprise or two, right off the hop.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have called a news conference for 11 a.m. today, where Kelly will be introduced as the team's head coach. Bomber board members will meet at 4 p.m. to rubber stamp the deal, which is expected to be a three-year contract.

If you're wondering who Kelly's two key hires will be -- as offensive and defensive co-ordinator -- you've come to the right place.

For starters, don't expect former Blue Bomber quarterback and current TV talking head Matt Dunigan to be his right-hand man on offence.

It's not that Dunigan isn't qualified. Or interested, for that matter.

It's just that Kelly isn't going to dole those duties out to anybody. He's going to be doing it himself.

Oh, he may hire an offensive assistant to help draw up the game plan, maybe call plays. It's tough for a head coach to find the time during games to do that, with everything else that's going on. He might even call the guy his co-ordinator.

But this is going to be his offence.

It's probably one of the things that impresses Bomber president/CEO Lyle Bauer about Kelly.

Bauer was anything but impressed with the way Doug Berry passed responsibility for his offence and play calling to co-ordinator Kit Cartwright, then pulled it from Cartwright and foisted it on quarterback Kevin Glenn last season.

We're told Berry's different offensive units -- quarterbacks and receivers, O-line, running backs -- didn't even get together for meetings, which helps to explain the lack of cohesion the last year-and-a-half.

Kelly's philosophy is all about communication. There will be no question about who's doing what, and who's in charge.

As for his defence, it's probably safe to say so long to Greg Marshall.

The Bomber defensive co-ordinator the last three years, well-respected throughout the CFL, Marshall will probably land on his feet somewhere.

Here's a prediction for who'll move into his Winnipeg office: an old friend and associate of Kelly's, named Mark Nelson.

Do some legwork and you'll find Nelson is ideally suited, and connected, for the job: he worked as Kelly's defensive co-ordinator and linebackers coach at Valdosta State University, from 1997-99.

Kelly so respected Nelson -- his defence ranked 13th nationally in '98 -- he named him his associate head coach for two years. And when Kelly was fired in '99, Nelson took over as Valdosta's interim head man.

Nelson also has a long tradition with Canadian football: he spent five years in the CFL as an assistant -- 1992-96, the same years Kelly was in Winnipeg -- with Toronto, San Antonio and Edmonton, winning Grey Cups with the Argos in '96, the Eskimos in '93, when they beat the Bombers.

The last two years, Nelson, 52, was the special teams co-ordinator at the University of Louisville, which followed stints at Tulsa, Baylor, Kentucky and Arkansas Tech.

A native of Edmonton, Nelson also played in the CFL, with Calgary and Saskatchewan, in the 1980s. His father, Roger, was one of the Eskimos all-time greats, an O-lineman who's on Edmonton's Wall of Honour.

The rest of Kelly's staff will be filled in time. Don't be surprised if he brings O-line coach Ron Vinklarek, another Valdosta connection, with him from Edmonton.

But pulling it all together will be Kelly, the media-savvy offensive guru who spent 2005-07 lecturing in the classroom at Drexel University in Philadelphia, but was lured back to the CFL this year.

"It was fun, but the adrenaline rush wasn't there," Kelly told Sun Media when he joined the Eskimos. "At some point you look in the mirror and say you are what you are. I am a football coach, and that is what I needed to do."

Welcome to Winnipeg, coach.

Now go win a Grey Cup.


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