Bauer giving Kelly a chance

Lyle Bauer is willing to give Mike Kelly time to turn around the fortunes of the Blue Bombers. (Sun...

Lyle Bauer is willing to give Mike Kelly time to turn around the fortunes of the Blue Bombers. (Sun Media/File)

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:02 PM ET

Last week, Lyle Bauer didn't want to talk about his head coach.

Asked to defend his hiring of Mike Kelly going into the game against the B.C. Lions, the Winnipeg Blue Bomber president/CEO said the situation would be better served by focusing on "improving our club's passing woes."

What a difference a week -- and a much-needed victory -- makes.

His team now 3-5 and back in the CFL's grainy playoff picture, if not in perfect focus, just yet, Bauer this week was willing to weigh in.

And during the course of our conversation, it became clear that if it's up to the boss, he's going to give Kelly more than one season to turn the Bombers around.

"If your expectation is one year, I don't know if that's a realistic expectation," Bauer said. "We were a football team that was on a decline. I don't think anybody would argue with that. People wanted changes, and there was significant change."

Some of it not by design, and here's where Bauer suggests Kelly deserves a break.

For instance, he pointed to the unexpected resignation of personnel boss Brendan Taman over the winter as a significant blow.

"We ended up with Brendan leaving, which was very unfortunate, because there was somewhat of a buffer there," Bauer said, at the same time complimenting the job new personnel man John Murphy is doing.

"But he's also new to that role," Bauer said of Murphy, who came over from an assistant's position in Calgary.

Bauer also mentioned the off-season departure of two assistant coaches Kelly hired: O-line coach Ronnie Vinklarek, who took a U.S. college job, and running backs coach Andy Cox, who resigned for health reasons.

"So it hasn't all been smooth sailing," Bauer said.

Of course, Kelly also gutted half the roster, creating some serious getting-to-know-you time in the locker-room.

Through it all, Bauer points to the improved defence, kicking game and, of course, that vaunted running attack that leads the CFL.

Yes, he realizes there's one glaring thing missing. The one thing Kelly was supposed to be so good at.

"There's no question the passing game has not shaped up the way people envisioned," Bauer said.

Actually, nobody could have envisioned it being this bad.

Bauer says he explored Kelly's plans for the offence before hiring him, and came away satisfied the man knew what he was talking about.

The blame, he says, has to be shared, and not just by the quarterbacks.

"There's a responsibility to teach, there's a responsibility to be taught, and then there's a responsibility to execute," Bauer said.

And his coach is teaching properly?

"I haven't heard any different."

Ask Bauer what convinced him Kelly was the right man for the job back in December, and the first things he talks about are passion and attitude.

Passion from Kelly for the team -- "his genuine want for this position," Bauer called it -- and the attitude Kelly would look for in players.

"The attitude and character you see from our players is a direct result of all the coaching staff, led by Mike," Bauer said. "They certainly don't quit. And they display a certain character that will bode well for the future.

"The 2008 team did not have the attitude of the 2009."

Bauer went on to say Kelly has received offers from NFL teams since taking the Bomber job, suggesting others also believe he has "significant skills."

As for the $300,000-plus spent on players that are no longer here, Bauer chalks that up to the cost of change.

So the man in the big chair is willing to wait.

We'll see if Bomber fans are as patient.

Contact Paul at paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca or 632-2788.


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