Bomber identity crisis

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:35 AM ET

Patience is a virtue usually reserved for most rookie head coaches.

Give them half a season, then check to see what kind of promise their new team shows. Despite his bravado, it simply had to take Winnipeg's Mike Kelly at least that long after tearing apart a playoff team, and that included ditching the quarterback who had led the squad to the 2007 Grey Cup game.

So, nine games into his first gig as a CFL head coach, Kelly's team sits at 3-6, dropping into the murky race for the crossover playoff spot. In fact, if the post-season started today, the Blue Bombers would get an early start on Christmas shopping.

Usually, at the midway point of the season under a new man, a team shows some kind of identity that it can hang its helmet on.

In Doug Berry's first season, the Bombers were 5-4 and full of frothing-at-the-mouth optimism at the half. This year, not so much.

"We're still scrambling," veteran Bombers defensive tackle Doug Brown said after Winnipeg's 29-14 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Labour Day Classic in Regina on Sunday. "We get a taste for what we feel our identity is and we just can't be consistent with it.

"We need to get into our minds where we can string together performances, where we can count on each other to perform on a week-in and week-out basis and we're not getting that done right now."

Yes, there have been signs of hope -- Fred Reid, Siddeeq Shabazz, Terrence Edwards, Jovin Johnson, a much-improved defence. But, for each sign of hope, there have been too many frustrations and those start on offence.

'EXECUTE BETTER'

Kelly sent an SOS to an out-of-work Michael Bishop because his guy, Stefan LeFors, did not develop as quickly as expected without a veteran quarterback to help groom him. But for every pass Bishop completes, he completely misses a wide-open receiver.

He threw for more than 300 yards on Sunday but that outing was spoiled by three critical interceptions.

The Bombers showed promise both offensively and defensively in the second half of a loss to Calgary, then imploded in the next game versus Montreal.

"At some point, we have to overcome some of these things and put it all together," Kelly said. "We play with great effort, with great desire. I don't question our guys in that regard but we have to execute better."

But, whether it is screwing up the coin toss or failing to score from the one, or whatever, there is just no flow to this team and the bottom line is that 3-6 record.

"The record don't show what kind of team we are," said cornerback Jovon Johnson. "On any given week, we can win games. We've got to put it all together and that's all it boils down to."

To do that, the team needs the leadership it is lacking, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.

"After this next game -- you've got to measure yourself against good teams and Saskatchewan's a good team," said linebacker Ike Charlton, referring to this Sunday's re-match.

"I don't think they're better but they're a good team ... But right now, until we get it together and put it together in all three phases of the game back-to-back-to-back -- you know, we have some consistencies but we're inconsistent at times and that's what's killing us."

That may be an awkward assessment but it sums the Bombers' year to date.

Never mind Spygate, the non-call call-in radio show or the Pacman games, Kelly will be judged on wins and losses.

Right now, Kelly has a failing grade and patience is already wearing thin.

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca


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