Kelly's flip boom or bust?

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:26 AM ET

What's this I hear, Winnipeg Blue Bomber head coach Mike Kelly admitted he was wrong?

A guy goes to the lake for a couple of weeks, and the unthinkable happens.

This has to rank up there with the great flip-flops in history. Not even Mr. Flip-Flop himself, Jeff Reinebold, was this quick to yank the starting quarterback's mantle from T. J. Rubley during the Great Depression of '98.

Yet Kelly, the rookie CFL head coach also known as god's gift to offensive football, the all-knowing, all-seeing quarterback guru who knew and saw something in Stefan LeFors the rest of us didn't, decided after four games that LeFors might not be ready for prime time.

What's he going to do next, hire an offensive co-ordinator to handle the quarterbacks? Go to the shotgun formation exclusively?

This calls for a trip to Hardware Hank, who, when he's not rooting on the Bombers as a long-time season-ticket holder, operates my neighbourhood hardware store.

Hank's as good a gauge of the local football fan as anyone I know, a levelheaded observer who doesn't let his pom-poms get in the way of his common sense.

Ask him about this year's Bombers, and he steps out from behind his counter and delivers the goods.

Rather chew nails

"Last year we joked about the Reinebold years," Hank began. "This year, we've got 'em again."

He's laughing as he says it, but isn't that what Winnipeggers do? When you haven't celebrated a championship for 18 years, you're forced to make light of the mess. Self-deprecation for self-preservation.

Strip the varnish off, and I think Hardware Hank would rather chew nails than watch another season of bad football.

That's why he doesn't have much sympathy for Kelly and the heat he's taking.

"He deserves it (after saying), 'Stefan LeFors is my guy, he's going to be a great quarterback, he's going to take us to the championship.' Four games into the season, he's replaced him. What a judge of talent, this guy," Hank said.

"He toots the horn before he should. And he's getting nailed on it, left, right and centre."

Hank still had a bad taste in his mouth after the last home game, that gawd-awful loss to a Toronto team that looks just as gawd-awful as the Bombers, offensively.

"It was bad," Hank said. "Real bad. We're going, 'OK, we have to start cheering first downs, again.'"

Right after the game, Kelly was talking about "staying the course," and the next thing you know he's put in an emergency call to Michael Bishop, the strong-armed (and erratic) passer who'd been out of football after Kelly and every other CFL team passed on him in the off-season.

And Kelly thinks the fans are schizophrenic?

"I don't think he had a choice," Hank said, of signing Bishop. "He couldn't have wheeled out LeFors in Toronto."

No, probably not. Give the coach credit for realizing that, I suppose. And he did manage to win last week.

But if you want to hang your Bomber hat on a game in which the Argos did everything they could to hand over the two points, finally coaxing the Bombers into taking them, be my guest.

Hank, mustering up the glass-half-full fan in him, pointed to the play of the Bomber defence as encouraging, and he's certainly right about that.

But can it last?

"If he can get them scoring 25 to 30 points a game, they should be able to win a lot of games," Hank said.

Yeah, they should.

And, as Dave Ritchie used to say, if ifs and buts were candies and nuts...

Let's be honest: it's still far too early to say if Kelly will go down as another Reinebold or Ritchie, or Mike Riley, for that matter.

From where I sit, though, the guy looks a lot like his anointed quarterback looked through four games.

We'll see if either one can make us forget their humble beginnings.

It'll be either a flip-flop to remember.

Or simply a giant flop.


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