Blue coach Kelly green

Mike Kelly blustered into Winnipeg last year with his bag of bravado, and expectations soared. (Sun...

Mike Kelly blustered into Winnipeg last year with his bag of bravado, and expectations soared. (Sun Media/Chris Procaylo)

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

We were blind, plain and simple. Should have seen it coming.

I'm talking about the early-season struggles of the 2-4 Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

After watching Game 6 of this going-nowhere-slowly adventure on the weekend, it's crystal clear to me: there was no way Mike Kelly was going to turn the Bombers into a Grey Cup contender this season. It was impossible from the start.

Through no fault of the head coach, in a way.

The man is, after all, a rookie at this job. And boy, oh boy, has it shown.

Unlike Marc Trestman in Montreal or Ken Miller in Saskatchewan a year ago, Kelly has looked every bit the first-year CFL bench boss. Blue, gold and green all over, making enough mistakes every week to fill Chris Walby's equipment bag.

The latest blatant example: Kelly's failure to call a timeout at the end of the first half of Saturday's 31-23 loss in Calgary. Slipped his mind, apparently, costing the Bombers a field goal that would have come in mighty handy.

Asked about it later, Kelly pointed the finger at his players, saying there wasn't enough urgency on the field.

Sorry, that's the head coach's baby. It doesn't matter if you get the timeout called with 17 seconds left or with two seconds left -- just get it called.

Managing the clock is Head Coaching 101, but Kelly is still learning it.

Just like he's still learning how best to call plays.

Thing is, we shouldn't be surprised.

Remember, other than one season as the receiver's coach in Edmonton, Kelly had been out of the CFL the last dozen years. His only previous experience was as the offensive co-ordinator, here, from '92-'96.

That's a long time ago. No wonder his offence has looked dated.

The man is obviously learning on the fly.

He learned, eventually, that it's best to have a proven, veteran quarterback in the fold. Too bad it cost his team a few potential wins early in the season.

Seems he's learned that all the motion and fake reverses we saw in the first few games aren't necessary. Didn't see any of that in Calgary.

On Saturday, Kelly apparently relearned the idea that his team has a dynamite running game. How he'd forgotten it the last two games is beyond me.

Overall, though, these are normal growing pains for a first-year head coach who's doubling as the offensive co-ordinator.

This is what club president Lyle Bauer got when he chose Kelly over other more qualified and experienced candidates.

Bomber fans just didn't know it at the time.

They hoped Kelly was wrongfully overlooked for this gig 12 years ago, when the Bombers hired Jeff Reinebold. Maybe assumed he was this offensive genius who'd been waiting patiently for his chance, brushing up on the game in the U.S. all the while.

In this space, way back in November, we wondered if Bauer was a little overzealous handing the job to his old friend, ignoring candidates like Richie Hall, who got the Eskimos job, and George Cortez, the offensive brain behind the Stampeders.

But Kelly blustered into town with his bag of bravado, and expectations soared.

So where will it end?

Saturday, there was actually a glimmer of hope peeking through the blackness: Kelly's offence resembled a real CFL attack. In the second half, anyway.

At this rate, we'll see a complete game by the end of September.

Learning on the job.

It might not be what Bomber fans bargained for.

But it's what they're stuck with for '09.


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