Blue keep the faith

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:26 AM ET

The board of directors has faith in the president and CEO.

The president and CEO has faith in the coach.

The coach has faith in the players.

Other than that, there doesn't appear to be much faith in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers these days.

It was unseasonably hot in Manitoba yesterday, but the 28 C temperatures were nothing compared to the heat head coach Mike Kelly is facing after Winnipeg's 55-10 home loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Sunday.

Many fans are calling for his head, but Kelly, while coming close to losing his cool yesterday, kept calm in answering a barrage of questions from a bigger-than-usual media gathering.

Kelly, in the first of a three-year deal, admitted his quarterbacks are the biggest problem, but he believes the offensive system is fine and they're going to stick with it. The Bombers are only two points out of a playoff spot with eight games left.

"I'm not going to just kick this bucket over and let it all spill out, because the nucleus is here," he said. "I truly believe we're only a couple of spots away from being pretty good."

Speaking of sticking with it, Kelly said the fans have a choice.

"You're either a fan of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers or you're a fair-weather fan that only likes them when they're winning," Kelly said.

"We'll find out who the real fans are, and then the other ones, when we do start winning, there won't be any room on the bandwagon for them."

The board of directors, led by chairman Ken Hildahl, is still behind president and CEO Lyle Bauer, but it wants to see progress.

"We're disappointed, there's absolutely no question," Hildahl said. "What we saw (Sunday) from everybody's perspective -- the board, players, management -- was totally unacceptable.

"What we'd be looking for are some substantial steps towards improvement."

The board doesn't meddle in football operations, so it's ultimately up to Bauer to get things turned around on the field.

"The board has every confidence that Lyle will take the necessary steps to get this thing sorted out," Hildahl said. "... Are we disappointed? Yes. Would we like to see substantial improvement? Yes. Are we prepared to give him the opportunity to correct the problem? Absolutely.

"At this point he hasn't lost the confidence of the board."

Bauer, meanwhile, continues to throw his support behind Kelly. The same can't be said, however, when it comes to Kelly's feeling for starting quarterback Michael Bishop, who completed nine of 21 passes for 98 yards and two interceptions on Sunday.

In fact, Kelly didn't rule it out when asked if third-string quarterback Casey Bramlet, who arrived in town only six days ago, could start for the Bombers (3-7) on Sunday in Montreal against the Alouettes (8-2).

That's because No. 2 Bryan Randall completed as many passes (two) as interceptions in his appearance against the Riders.

"We're looking at a lot of things," Kelly said.

The Bombers are investigating a couple of quarterbacks on their negotiation list, Kelly noted, but the team is looking at bringing in a defensive end and a receiver this week.

Hildahl said it's imperative the team gets its act together, because more performances like Sunday will start affecting the gate.

"You gotta respect the fans, absolutely," Hildahl said. "They pay good money to attend these games.

"I don't think you have to necessarily win every game, but you sure as hell have to show that you're at a competitive level. (Sunday) we weren't at a competitive level."

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca

OUCH!

The worst setbacks in Winnipeg Blue

Bomber history, by point differential:

Pts Opp. Date Score

61 at Edm Nov. 10, 1996 68-7*

54 at Edm Sept. 15, 1995 64-10

53 at Tor Oct. 8, 1967 53-0

52 at Sask Sept. 3, 1995 56-4

50 at Ham Sept. 18, 1999 65-15

48 at Shre Aug. 5, 1995 65-17

47 at Balt Oct. 29, 1994 57-10

45 vs. Sask Oct. 15, 1949 45-0

45 vs. Sask Sept. 14, 2009 55-10

44 at Sask Sept. 2, 1990 55-11

41 vs. Tor Sept. 7, 1997 66-25

41 at Cal Aug. 30, 1954 41-0

41 at Edm Oct. 5, 1957 41-0

* West Division semifinal


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