The Mike Kelly era, as short-lived as it was, kicked off a troubling five-year period for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Save for the season after their Swaggerville run to the Grey Cup – one that ultimately didn't pan out – Bombers fans have been subjected to the same hope-filled off-season rhetoric; what makes this the year they turn it around when the same pre-season confidence a year ago led to just more troubling results?
And in a lot of ways this year could be similar. New general manager Kyle Walters was part of the old guard and new starting quarterback Drew Willy, he of just 147 career CFL passing attempts, cannot be considered the for-sure answer at quarterback.
That isn't to say these things won't turn around this season, but old GM Joe Mack's hiring got a lot of people excited in 2010, returning to the city where he won a Grey Cup before gaining extensive experience in NFL front offices; and Stefan LeFors, Buck Pierce, and Alex Brink all had failed tenures as quarterback of the future.
But there is some tangible evidence the team could be breaking out of their five-year fog.
Mike O'Shea leads the list of smart moves the team made in the off-season to quietly start a foundation that could lead to success.
It's been a while since the Bombers landed a coveted candidate at head coach. O'Shea has been ticketed as someone to watch for years now after following up a very impressive playing career with a promising stint as special teams coordinator in Toronto.
The Canadian football lifer oozes leadership and has the opportunity to set the standard for the Bombers roster as he helped to do with some strong Argonauts rosters the past couple years.
Keeping Marcel Bellefeuille around as O'Shea's offensive coordinator gives the team a play caller with both head coaching and successful coordinator experience on his resume. And adding Danny McManus, by all accounts an up-and-comer in the player evaluation world, should be of benefit to Walters in the front office.
And aside from losing out on the Zach Collaros sweepstakes – Willy was a decent consolation prize – the team added some important free agents to help in the culture change Winnipeg is undertaking.
Nick Moore, who some had tabbed for the NFL after his breakout season, should be a fine replacement for Terrence Edwards as the go-to option in the receiving corps. And Korey Banks, who was added after a contract squabble with the BC Lions, still has a lot of game left to go along with his leadership and winning mentality.
Maybe this year won't be any different than ones previous, there's really no way of knowing if the new regime fits together to make a winner or not. And there likely won't be an easy team to pick off in the East Division.
But aside from bringing with them a fresh air and new way of thinking, O'Shea and company have a winning attitude that could finally reverse the fortunes in Winnipeg. If you're apt to believe a change of culture is a noticeable step on the way to respectability, the Bombers could finally be making the first moves towards contending this season.
West Division The Blue Bombers are returning to where many CFL fans feel they belong, the West Division. With the Ottawa Redblacks joining the league and East Division, Winnipeg will jump back to the West, alongside the Lions, Stampeders, and Eskimos, and of course their longtime rivals in Saskatchewan.
Terrence Edwards Retires Blue Bombers fans haven't had a lot to cheer about the past couple years but one constant was Terrence Edwards tremendous play at receiver. Edwards spent seven of his nine CFL seasons in Winnipeg, five of which he surpassed 1,000 yards receiving, scoring a combined 46 touchdowns.
Expansion Draft The Redblacks used the first two rounds of the expansion draft to nab from Winnipeg a promising young receiver in Wallace Miles, and a strong special teams player in FB James Green. The Bombers didn't suffer a loss in the third round however as the Redblacks selected impending free agent Rory Kohlert, a non-import receiver. Ottawa never signed Kohlert to a contract extension and he returned to Winnipeg just months later as a free agent.
Free Agency Winnipeg should be relatively pleased with their off-season haul. They locked up some solid players on their own roster and landed a star receiver to replace Edwards in former BC Lion Nick Moore, and a quarterback they hope can lead the team now and in the future in former Saskatchewan Roughrider Drew Willy.
CFL Draft With the second overall pick the Blue Bombers landed a solid offensive line prospect in Matthias Goossen, who they hope will be a mainstay for years to come. Winnipeg also selected McGill LB Jesse Briggs in the second round, Simon Fraser DB Derek Jones in the fourth round, Mount Allison DL Quinn Everett in the sixth round, and McMaster LB Aram Eisho in the seventh round.