Kelly has few regrets

Bombers head coach Mike Kelly isn't beleaguered by the shenanigans, many of which should have been...

Bombers head coach Mike Kelly isn't beleaguered by the shenanigans, many of which should have been handled better. (Sun Media/Brian Donogh)

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:36 AM ET

Regrets, Mike Kelly has but two.

"I probably should have kept a veteran quarterback around," the head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers said last night. "If you had told me five months ago our offence would have been where it is, I would have found it shocking.

"And the thing that bothers me the most is the whole comment about that part of Canada. I was not the first one that said it, but once it was out of my mouth, that was it.

"Nothing else I have said or done would I back away from."

Kelly infamously referred to Saskatchewan as the "crotch of Canada" in the spring, but he was repeating something that had been said at a fan forum.

The Argonauts and Blue Bombers are tied at the bottom of the Canadian Football League with 3-8 records, and the loser of the Basement Bowl tomorrow at Canad Inns Stadium in Winnipeg surely can flush playoff hopes down the toilet. Fortunately, the newest Canadian Football Hall of Fame inductees will be honoured at halftime, so it won't be a completely ugly evening.

There's one area in which the Bombers have the Argos beaten, and that's in off-field wackiness.

The Argos had their day in the sun with the Arland Bruce saga, and there has been the odd public dispute between head coach Bart Andrus and some players, but nothing has reached the divisive point.

In Winnipeg, Kelly didn't take long to become public enemy No. 1. Veterans Derick Armstrong and Barrin Simpson have been jettisoned for different reasons, while the Bombers' decision to look into adding Adam (Pacman) Jones brought scorn. In January, not long after he was hired, Kelly wondered aloud if former general manager Brendan Taman kept his files on paper napkins. And then there was the day a Bombers scout was caught spying on a Tiger-Cats practice. Nice.

"My biggest learning curve has been with the media," Kelly said, "and how things are perceived. We have had a lot of amoebas that have developed into one-eyed monsters."

But the Gong Show-like atmosphere has been the talk across the league.

"I thought last year was a fiasco (in Toronto), but Winnipeg, they have a lot of stuff going on," Argos defensive end Jonathan Brown said. "All I can say is I'm glad it's not us. We went through it a little bit with Arland but we re-focused."

On the grid-iron, neither team has found a consistent quarterback. The Argos' Cody Pickett replaced Kerry Joseph but can't get untracked; former Argo Michael Bishop, who will start tomorrow, is one of several Bombers pivots who were not around in training camp. Stefan LeFors was handpicked by Kelly to be the starter, but he was awful and was forced to take a pay cut.

Perhaps the craziest factor is that even with the myriad of problems both teams have endured, one will remain in the playoff hunt when the final gun sounds tomorrow.

Kelly isn't beleaguered by the shenanigans, many of which should have been handled better.

"This is what energizes me," Kelly said. "If you're going to knock me down, I'm going to bite your ankle. I want nothing more than to win a Grey Cup ring with the city of Winnipeg."

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca


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