Sticking to his guns

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:54 AM ET

Since taking over the reins of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Mike Kelly hasn't been shy about stepping on a few toes.

The former GM, a handful of veteran players, the local media -- all have felt the weight of the new head coach's way of doing business.

Turns out Kelly doesn't mind launching a few shots across the bow of opposing coaches, either.

His weapon of choice: the shotgun.

Asked why he doesn't use the formation -- where the quarterback stands several yards behind his centre for the snap -- Kelly said the shotgun is for "flag football, and guys that haven't coached quarterbacks very well."

Now, considering most CFL teams use the shotgun regularly, some almost exclusively, this could be considered rather boastful. Arrogant, even.

Read between the lines, and isn't Kelly saying he knows more about quarterbacks than anybody else?

Seems to me using the shotgun worked out pretty well for Henry Burris in Calgary last season.

Ricky Ray's done OK with it in Edmonton, too. Ditto Anthony Calvillo in Montreal.

Why would those teams use an offence that doesn't suit the CFL, as Kelly suggests?

"That's their problem," he said. "It's not mine."

Maybe coaches like John Hufnagel, Danny Maciocia and Marc Trestman would be better suited for flag football, I don't know.

If any of them get their backs up over Kelly's comments, he, frankly, doesn't give a damn.

"I could care less," a smiling Kelly said. "Get a life. Relax. We're just havin' some fun."

Hey, we enjoy having fun at others' expense as much as anyone. Actually get paid to do it once in a while.

But it often generates some heat from those being expensed. Which makes Kelly's bravado a tad puzzling.

Rarely do you see coaches calling each other out, Doug Berry's Finger-Gate with Don Matthews a couple of years ago notwithstanding. It's a close-knit fraternity, based on mutual respect.

I'm not saying Kelly doesn't respect his fellow coaches in the CFL.

He simply believes strongly in what he's doing. Is confident almost to the point of being brash.

Matthews was that way, and he did all right.

But even The Don didn't go out of his way to ruffle feathers.

Kelly seems to enjoy it.

Here's what he had to say about the players he'd have to cut today.

"You're probably going to see them in somebody else's uniform, playing against us."

In other words, the Bombers recruited that much smarter than anybody else.

And they're going to run a unique offence that's far better suited to the CFL than what everybody else is doing.

Kelly says the other guys are running "an adaptation of the American game that has been forced on the Canadian game."

"I was taught Canadian football by someone who knew it as well as anybody ever in the league," he said, referring to former Bomber coach Cal Murphy. "So we're playing Canadian football the way I was taught.

"There's no one doing what we're doing right now."

You've got to hand Kelly this: he's put himself out there, alone, in the middle of deep water. Sink or swim.

"I've been sink or swim since I came here, haven't I?" he asked, still smiling.

Yes, he has.

From declaring that "nobody touches the quarterbacks but me" on the day he was hired, to telling the rest of the CFL's coaches, some of whom have been in the league for decades, that he knows something they don't.

Mike Kelly might not like the shotgun.

But he's given his opponents something to get locked and loaded about.

And whether he goes up or down, it'll be with guns a-blazing.


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