Bombers cut Murphy loose

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers continue to cut ties with the Mike Kelly regime, firing director of player personnel John Murphy on Sunday.

The move came two days after the Winnipeg Football Club's board of directors hired Joe Mack to be the team's new vice-president and general manager of football operations.

However, interim team president Jim Bell said the decision to fire Murphy was his alone.

"I sat down yesterday and I thought about it, and in fairness to all parties I just thought it was the right thing to do," Bell said Sunday. "We're going to change the direction in football. We've got a new hire (Mack), and then we've got another one coming probably within a few weeks (head coach).

"Having said that, John's a young guy and we wish him all the best. He'll land on his feet."

Murphy had two years left on his contract, which means he has a buyout of some kind coming. He refused comment when reached at his New Orleans home on Sunday.

Bell maintained that Murphy's firing was more about the future and less about his connection to Kelly, who hired Murphy away from the Calgary Stampeders last January.

"It's fair to say that as we move in a new direction, maybe some distance is required from the past regime, but I didn't dwell on that," Bell said. "I look more going forward than back. It's not a vendetta against anyone or anything like that.

"I just think in the best interest of the club moving forward that we make a clean break in that sense and we go forward. I didn't spend a lot of time going over the last 12 months. That would've been pointless."

The timing of the firing is somewhat interesting, considering the Bombers had Murphy in Florida scouting the East-West Shrine Game for them last week and still conducting trade talks, according to a source, as recently as Friday. Murphy applied for Winnipeg's GM job, but he didn't get an official interview despite being told he would get one.

While Mack said Friday he had yet to evaluate everybody in the team's football operations department, it's believed he had not contacted Murphy before Bell fired him. Mack probably wants to hire his own personnel man anyway.

Mack also said Friday that someone on staff who is familiar with the Bombers' salary cap and day-to-day operations would likely stay on board. The club still has director of football operations Ross Hodgkinson under contract, but it's not known if Mack wants him or even if Hodgkinson wants to stay.

Mack will scout this week's Senior Bowl practices and all-star game in Mobile, Ala., where he will also interview head coaching candidates.

Murphy, who had to report only to president/CEO Lyle Bauer last year, had an up-and-down season with the Bombers. There were more positives than negatives, however, and nearly 80% of fans who took the Sun's annual You Be The Boss poll wanted to keep him.

Murphy signed all-stars Doug Brown and Brendon LaBatte to extensions, he did away with handing out big off-season bonuses, he got much of the team's top young talent under contract through 2011, he helped re-sign potential free agents Jovon Johnson and Alexis Serna earlier this month, and four players he brought to Winnipeg have signed NFL contracts in the last three weeks.

On the flip side, he lit the fuse on the Pacman Jones saga in September, his name was tied to Ron Trentini, the scout who got caught charting plays at a Hamilton Tiger-Cats practice in July, the Bombers are expected to be over the $4.2-million salary cap for the '09 season, although some of that blame falls on the former regime, and the team still doesn't have a bona fide quarterback, although Murphy believes Ricky Santos has a strong future.

Murphy didn't make it to the one-year anniversary of his hiring, which would have been Wednesday.


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