Returning to his roots

Mike Kelly returns to Winnipeg as the head coach of the Blue Bombers. (Sun Media/Jordan Verlage)

Mike Kelly returns to Winnipeg as the head coach of the Blue Bombers. (Sun Media/Jordan Verlage)

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 2:58 PM ET

The CFL's worst-kept secret is finally official: Mike Kelly is the new head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Team president and CEO Lyle Bauer introduced Kelly this morning at the Winnipeg Sun Centre. Kelly, who was Winnipeg's offensive co-ordinator between 1992 and 1996 and is good friends with Bauer, signed a long-term deal, believed to be three years.

"Some people want to be a head coach. I've always wanted to be the head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers," Kelly said in a press release prior to the news conference. "When I told my two daughters, who were both born at the St. Boniface hospital, that I was becoming head coach in Winnipeg, they both said, 'Dad, this is your dream job.' It really is."

Bauer called the hiring a "home run." He was looking for experience, a communicator, a motivator, a teacher and someone who would choose to work in Winnipeg over any other CFL city.

Bauer was Winnipeg's assistant GM when Kelly was the OC in the 1990s.

Kelly spent the 2008 CFL campaign as the Edmonton Eskimos receivers coach. Before that he was a sports management professor for three years at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

Kelly takes over from Doug Berry, who was fired Nov. 12 after three seasons at the helm. The Bombers were 8-10 under Berry last year and lost to Kelly's Eskimos in the East Division semifinal.

Kelly vowed to bring pride back to the organization.

"There will be a level of pride and tradition that we will carry with us," Kelly said. "That is not lost on me, and it will not be lost on our players. We're going to get the culture back. We will bring that back. I promise you that ... I'm a football coach who promises you the football team will represent the community the way I know it should be represented. It's been lost a little bit."

The Bombers made it to the Grey Cup in Kelly's first two seasons with the Blue and Gold but lost both times. Winnipeg hasn't won a Grey Cup since 1990, the longest drought in the CFL.

"We have unfinished work to do," Kelly said. "I know there are great expectations here. I know what everybody feels like.

"Failure is not an option."

Winnipeg's record during Kelly's five seasons in the 1990s was 54-36. Their 651 points during the 1995 campaign were the second-most in the last 17 CFL seasons, behind only the Doug Flutie-led Toronto Argonauts in 1997.

Kelly will serve as the Bombers' offensive co-ordinator, and he said "nobody will be touching the quarterbacks except me." He said it was too soon to announce who his defensive co-ordinator will be but he has some people in mind. A good bet, as reported in today's Sun, would be Mark Nelson, a Canadian who worked with Kelly at Valdosta State University.

Former GM Brendan Taman is now the vice-president of player personnel. The team will not have a GM, and Kelly will report directly to Bauer.

Kelly said he and Taman will work "shoulder-to-shoulder" when it comes to putting the best product on the field.

Kelly left Winnipeg in 1997 to become the head coach at Valdosta State, where the Blazers were 15-18 over his three seasons in charge.

He was a player personnel assistant for the Eskimos in 2000 before becoming the offensive co-ordinator of the Orlando Rage of the short-lived XFL in 2001.

Kelly spent the next two years with the Philadelphia Eagles as a pro scout, offensive assistant and quality control manager, and then two more seasons with the Washington Redskins as a player personnel assistant.


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