Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Expect new Blue field boss to set pace

O'Shea proves he's no shrinking violet

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It is not every year a professional football team replaces its CEO, president, general manager, head coach, assistant GM, and soon to be offensive and defensive co-ordinators, along with possibly all the other position coaches too.

Yet when you score the fewest points in the 2013 regular CFL season, give up the most points, and tie the franchise record for fewest wins ever, it's better to err on the side of total reconstructive surgery.

Not only is this a historic flushing and turnover of prominent personnel, but watching the new management team being assembled is kind of like watching the casting of the 1988 western movie Young Guns.

The CEO is 40 years old. The GM is 40 years old. The oldest of this deputized trifecta is the head coach, who is a fledging 43 years old, and they are all rookies in their respective football positions.

Yet as anyone who has ever played with newbies in a team environment knows, what they often lack in the experience and wisdom departments, the best of them make up for in categories of enthusiasm, work ethic, and innovativeness. They may not have proven track records and formulas for success at their fingertips -- in their respective positions -- but they have something to prove and chips on their shoulders to demonstrate they were the right hires for the job, and can do their jobs effectively.

The latest of these hires, new head coach Mike O'Shea, joins a long list of rookie head coaches who have been hired by this franchise.

O'Shea is the fifth consecutive head coach hired by the Bombers without a lick of head coaching experiencing.

On average, the men hired before him lasted an average of two seasons at the helm before being fired, but O'Shea has some attributes that separate him from his predecessors.

The first thing O'Shea brings into the lockeroom that Tim Burke, Paul LaPolice, Mike Kelly and Doug Berry didn't is the fact he saw the game from the inside looking out for 16 years, and as a middle linebacker has been calling defences and getting people lined up for most of that time.

When you are put in charge of men who know that you understand their perspective as players, you don't have the same proving ground as rookie head coaches who have never played the game, and you are instantly afforded a higher degree of respect.

Another factor that may endear these players to O'Shea is his background with the player's association. Not only was he a player rep, he spent time as the vice-president, and before he became a special-teams coach, he was the consensus candidate to supersede the president.

The last, and most critical distinction, between O'Shea and the crop of rookie head coaches who came before him -- to which his tenure will inevitably be compared -- is his personality.

O'Shea demonstrated at the CFLPA his ability to have both charismatic and authoritative facets to his personality. And it reminds one of the successful governance style employed by the best Bomber coach over the last decade and a half, Dave Ritchie.

He also has a high level of confidence and reputation as a risk taker.

So often, you see coaches trying to play safe, playing not to lose, and insulating themselves in their positions. O'Shea was so aggressive as a special teams co-ordinator, I recall sitting in a special teams meetings with Kyle Walters (now the GM) who was consumed with worry about what O'Shea might throw at us, instead of focusing in on what we were going to throw at him.

Most new coaches who aren't overly confident are reactive and don't force the issue, they respond to it. If O'Shea's tenure follows that of his special teams co-ordination, he will be setting the pace and imposing his will, making things happen instead of trying to catch up to them.

Young Guns opened at No. 1 over 25 years ago, and reportedly made a profit of $34 million. The fans and followers of this team will be more than happy with just a degree of this kind of success, as these three newly appointed young deputies cut their teeth at their positions in 2014.


Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.

Twitter: @DougBrown97

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 10, 2013 D4

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