September 4, 2015

By Doug Brown


Some do's and don'ts new Bombers boss should heed

Just like Claude Noel, it is inevitable that Mike O'Shea will be fired. It is simply a matter of when.

Since the 2000 football season, the Bombers have given seven different head coaches the reins of the franchise. Two of these seven had previously been head coaches, and O'Shea is now the fifth consecutive one that will lose his head-coaching virginity in Blue and Gold.

The four previous rookie appointments had an average tenure of two years, a minimum employment of one year and a maximum candidacy of three years. Without a shadow of a doubt, O'Shea will eventually lose his job here -- they don't say coaches are hired to be fired just because it rhymes -- but wouldn't it be something if he bucked this trend?

Imagine a head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers who kept his job for five, or even 10 consecutive football seasons? We can dare to dream, can't we?

The obvious antidote for kicking this trend is to win a championship. It says right here that the head coach who ends this ridiculous drought of 23 years gets an automatic four-year extension, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. Right now should be about giving O'Shea every advantage and insight possible for him to surpass the maximum rookie head coach expiry date of three seasons, so therefore, in order to shorten his learning curve, we must share with him what we learned from his predecessors.

Hindsight affords us the perspective to categorize the do's and don't's of previous coaching tenures, so here they are, in chronological order:

-- The "do's" of Dave Ritchie's coaching appointment are a minefield of achievement and record. Do tie the franchise record for most wins in a season with 14, and do win more consecutive games than any other team. Do make sure the players notice the difference between a work week after a win and a loss. Do be a player's coach athletes will gladly make sacrifices for and revere, and finally, do be a head coach who is above all else a leader players respect and even fear a little.

-- When it comes to Jim Daley, do pay attention to details, no matter how small. Do name one of your dogs after your favourite player, if you wish, and do have the specialists, like the snapper and kickers, feed, water and walk your dog during practice when they are otherwise not engaged. Do beat the Saskatchewan Roughriders every time you play them, like Coach Daley did, but don't form a leadership council to make petty decisions on things such as what colour uniforms you should be wearing.


-- Do make the playoffs every season you are a head coach, like Doug Berry, and do make a Grey Cup run in only your second year at the helm. Do not hesitate to cuss, critique and challenge your players, but don't do it to the point where it looks like you're going to melt the face of your diminutive field-goal kicker. Do be somewhat socially awkward so the players are never quite sure where they stand with you, but don't be worse in your third year than you were in your first two.

-- Don't have the shortest tenure of all the rookie head coaches, like Mike Kelly, and don't get rid of your best and only proven QB just because your fan base is disenchanted with him (Kevin Glenn). Don't be insolent toward your fans and customers -- no matter how much they irritate you -- and don't break your own code of conduct guidelines.

-- Do be like Paul LaPolice and take your team to the Grey Cup after a four-win season, and do be a Coach of the Year candidate who was robbed of this accolade. If necessary, do find a way to mitigate a disaster such as the magnitude of the loss of one of the most beloved assistant coaches ever, but don't ever use a vase as a motivational prop.

-- Do be a class act and do be honest and frank with the media, like Tim Burke, but don't be so honest you make yourself look bad. Do defer to the expertise of your assistants, but don't give them ultimate authority on critical decisions. And last but not least, don't ever tell the football fans in the province that your football team requires more repairs than can be accomplished in a year.

Hopefully, by sharing this history we can learn from it, because there aren't many of us left with the patience to repeat it.


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 January 14, 2014 C5

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