Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

O'Shea's gotta keep a lid on his temper

Can't afford to blow up at players after losses

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Mike O'Shea is going to have to figure out how to be a little less like Mike O'Shea. After a playing career of small-picture focus, where winning each battle, play and game dominated his very existence, O'Shea is now going to need to look at the big picture and take a loss now and again to make future gains.

If O'Shea allows his unbridled passion for winning to bubble over early in this season, he may very well impede the growth of his Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Simply put, the rookie head coach won't be able to hold all his charges up to the same standard to which he holds himself. First of all, not many will ever meet it. Second, to expect such and then get frustrated and react when the inevitable failure occurs will leave O'Shea and the Bombers a broken team.

O'Shea needs to temper the edge that drove him to success as a Hall of Fame player. It will be counter to all his instincts, but it will allow his team to find its way and eventually get to the point where players can act, walk and talk in a manner acceptable to O'Shea.

Surely, O'Shea will eventually expect this team to consistently win. But to demand it from them now isn't realistic.

It's a most delicate balance. The Bombers need to approach every battle, play and game with a winning attitude. But that alone won't garner victories. Talent and experience, two areas the Bombers are short on in a number of positions, are key to a winning formula.

O'Shea needs to drive his team. Push them and lead them -- but not over the cliff.

Quarterback Drew Willy is going to struggle and the coach is going to want to yank him early and often. He can't. Willy needs to be able to make mistakes and learn from them. This will require some losing.

It's difficult to fathom O'Shea looking in the mirror and uttering, "It's OK if we lose today, so long as we learn, which will enable us to win on a consistent basis down the road."

Hearing him croak out a whisper to the same effect in front of his team is even more impossible to imagine. It won't happen. Never. But that doesn't make the sentiment any less true.

All Bombers fans want this team to win and win often this season. But the inability to accept losing for the right reason is precisely how the Bombers got themselves into a 3-15 jackpot last season.

Already management -- and that includes O'Shea -- has shown the courage to take a step back to move many forward. Opening the season with Willy and two other untested quarterbacks is the kind of step the previous regime was afraid of taking.

O'Shea should make decisions to play youth when the promise is obvious, as in the case of offensive lineman Matthias Goossen. The first-round pick has the size and athleticism to play in this league for a long time. Goossen is more of a brawler than anyone along a Bombers offensive line with a very thin mean streak. He's a Canadian who needs to play and gain experience. The sooner the better. Get him in and take some lumps early with an eye to the long-term benefit.

Why would the coaching staff push for veterans and bring Goossen along slowly? The only reason not to play Goossen now is to protect Willy. If using Goossen is a safety hazard, then the point is conceded. There's been no compelling reason provided by the veterans to keep Goossen off the field.

He's going to have to sink or swim at some time, so why not now, when everyone in the league is trying to find their way?

O'Shea spent some time last week stressing this isn't a rebuild. OK. But the Bombers are low on Canadian talent and green at quarterback, which often spells disaster in the CFL.

A quick fix is possible but impactful Canadians have to be in place for an experienced quarterback to parachute in and stack up the wins. The Bombers don't have any elite Canadians on their roster right now, and both Henry Burris and Zach Collaros spurned the Bombers' advances during the off-season.

So a fast turnaround is off the table and O'Shea is left with taking the longer route of development, which will include growing pains.

Everyone wants to win. Everyone knows what kind of a winner O'Shea is. Now it's time to find out what kind of a loser he can be.

Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 24, 2014 D1

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.


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