Bombers GM Walters expecting head coach O'Shea to re-sign with club in off-season

REGINA — Winnipeg GM Kyle Walters isn't worrying about the long-term future of Blue Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea.

O'Shea is in the final year of his contract with Winnipeg, which will chase a third straight Grey Cup title Sunday at Mosaic Stadium versus the Toronto Argonauts. On Wednesday, O'Shea, 52, of North Bay, Ont., downplayed any suggestion that he's a lame-duck coach, adding he has traditionally completed his deals and then signed new ones.

On Thursday, Walters said that's been the case this season as well.

"This is what Mike does," Walters said during the Bombers' media day session. "We sign him to a term, he works the term of that contract and then we sign him to a new one.

"I fully expect that will be the case again this year. I don't really worry about it because it's nothing new."

Walters said if he was a betting man, he'd put money on O'Shea remaining with the Bombers.

"Correct," Walters said.

O'Shea, the CFL's longest-tenured head coach, is completing his eighth season as Winnipeg's head coach, having complied an 82-58 regular-season record. The Bombers have finished atop the West Division the last two campaigns and won Grey Cups each time.

Winnipeg has a 7-3 playoff record under O'Shea but is 6-0 since 2019, including the two Grey Cup championships. The franchise has recorded double-digit wins in each of its last six seasons, including a franchise-record 15 regular-season victories this year.

"Mike is just the way he is and during the football season we don't talk about anything like that," Walters said. "We don't worry about anything else.

"There's no use even bringing it up, it's pointless. But that is the benefit of having worked together for so many years (that) as a whole group, we know how everybody thinks and works."

Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros has thrived in Winnipeg since being acquired late in 2019 from Toronto. The 34-year-old began his CFL career with the Argos in 2012 when O'Shea was the club's special-teams co-ordinator.

The two shared their first Grey Cup together that season when Toronto dispatched Calgary 35-22 before 53,208 spectators at Rogers Centre. Collaros was the CFL's outstanding player last year and is the overwhelming favourite to claim the honour again this year.

"I love Mike O'Shea," Collaros said. "The different life lessons I've learned from him over the last three seasons as well as two seasons in Toronto . . . he's just a special person.

"Any time anybody asks me about him, I say he oozes integrity. He doesn't even really have to try, that's kind of who he is and guys respect the hell out of him."

It's been suggested players take less to play in Winnipeg because of the culture O'Shea has helped cultivate in the Manitoba capital. Predictably, though, O'Shea downplayed that.

"I think that's a bit of an overstatement, once again I guess this is my argumentative side," O'Shea said. "They come here because of the group of guys that has established a way of doing things.

"It's not about the head coach. I really have a hard time believing players ever play for a head coach, they play for their teammates all the time, that's what they do. And so when players come here, they're coming because they feel they're going to have an opportunity to fit into something pretty special. We've got a group of guys in our locker room who've created a really great dynamic and a place I do believe people want to play."

The six-foot-three, 228-pound O'Shea had a stellar 16-year CFL career as a linebacker with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (1993-95, 2000) and Toronto (1996-99, 2001-08). He won three Grey Cups as an Argo (1996-97, '04) and in 271 regular-season games accumulated 1,151 tackles — the most ever by a Canadian and second in league history.

O'Shea was the CFL's top rookie in 1993 and its outstanding Canadian six years later. An all-time Argo, O'Shea was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2017.

Success has followed O'Shea into the coaching ranks. He added a fourth Grey Cup ring in 2012 as Toronto's special-teams co-ordinator before joining the Bombers.

O'Shea captured the Annis Stukus Trophy as the CFL's top coach last season and is a finalist for the honour again this year with Toronto's Ryan Dinwiddie.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 17, 2022.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press