Landing dream job

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:39 AM ET

Mike Kelly considered the question, but only for a moment.

His first day in a new job, and already he was being asked about his next job. His ultimate job.

Surely, an American who used to work in the NFL would have his sights set on getting back to The League, no?

"I wouldn't mind if this is my last job," the new head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers said. "This could be a long and loving relationship."

He laughed at the sound of it.

"That's my intention."

Long and loving relationships aren't usually synonymous with pro football.

That goes for the relationships made in the front office, and those nurtured, or not, at home.

Kelly, 50, has first-hand experience with both.

He's been fired, of course.

But football, and the way it consumes him, also cost him his marriage.

"Oh yeah, very much so," Kelly said, not sounding cold, nor particularly sentimental. "It's an awfully difficult profession on a family. It is what it is. You move on."

Described by Cal Murphy, his old Winnipeg boss, as someone who won't get distracted, Kelly's return to the CFL, with Edmonton a year ago, cost him family time, again.

He had been spending weekends with his two daughters near Philadelphia, watching them play on a high school basketball team, proud as punch when they took to the court together: the Kelly girls, Lindsey, 15, a diabetic who needs daily insulin injections, and 13-year-old Morgan.

"We developed a tremendous relationship," Kelly said. "This whole season in Edmonton I spoke with them, if not every night, then almost every night, to say goodnight.

"They understand that this is what dad does, and this is what motivates dad. I'd like to see them more. But you do the best you can."

This is what has motivated dad since he was five years old, growing up in Waterbury, Conn., a wide-eyed kid getting a ride on one of those blocking sleds, pushed by a lineman from the local high school team.

The team his dad coached.

It's in the blood, you see.

"It's my life," Kelly said. "It's really the only thing I ever wanted to do. That's where you derive your inner being, your satisfaction. That's what I am, and that's why I'm here."

Away from his girls, again -- but back to the place they were born.

His dream job, Kelly calls it. The one he thought he was entitled to 11 years ago.

Since then, he's learned you're rarely entitled to anything.

I don't know about you, but I think Bomber fans are entitled to get rid of the revolving door this team has set up at the head coach's office.

Doug Berry was canned after three years, Jim Daley after one-and-a-half.

Before Dave Ritchie's five-year run, Jeff Reinebold didn't even last two.

Anybody know the over-under on Kelly?

That's six coaches in the last dozen years (including Gary Hoffman's four-game stint in Reinebold's wake, in '98). You think it's a coincidence the Bombers haven't won a Grey Cup in 18?

It's time this team found its own version of Wally Buono.

Can someone who's never been a head coach in the pros be it? Someone who spent 11 of the last 12 years down south, who was a college prof for three years, out of the game unless you count the fact he created and taught a class called Monday Night Football as part of a Sport Management course?

Talk about coming a long way in a short time.

Who knows, maybe Kelly will actually wear out a pair of socks before he wears out his welcome.

He's counting on something separating him from all the rest who've tried, and failed.

"Understanding this organization and this community, better than some of the other guys that have been here," Kelly said. "Understanding what that passion is."

You get the real impression there are few places Kelly would rather be.

In short, he's here for the long haul

If it's up to him.

And, really, I guess it is.


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