The Winnipeg Blue Bombers took what they’re hoping is a major step towards improving their offensive line in 2014 with Tuesday’s announcement that they have hired veteran offensive line coach Bob Wylie.
Wylie has a wealth of both NFL experience — he coached the offensive line in Oakland in 2011 and Denver in 2010 — and CFL experience — he coached Winnipeg’s offensive line in 2007 and 2008.
Wylie’s services were reportedly widely sought after this off-season and while there had been rumours for weeks that he was headed to Winnipeg, the Bombers officially landing him on Tuesday is being considered a big win.
"I don’t know it was necessarily a coup," said Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea.
"I think he really enjoyed his previous time in Winnipeg. He has some very fond memories of his time up here...I believe he understands the passion of the fans here and how important football is to Winnipeg.
"And I believe that’s an attraction for men who love to coach."
Wylie was unavailable for an interview on Tuesday, but O’Shea cited three qualities that caused him to hire Wylie.
"His experience; his ability to teach; and the one thing that resonated most was that when I spoke to players around the league who had been coached by him, the answer was the same: they loved playing for him," said O’Shea.
Indeed, Bombers offensive lineman Patrick Neufeld hailed Wylie’s hiring on Tuesday via his personal Twitter account.
"Couldn’t be more excited to be coached by one of the greatest OL coaches in the game Bob Wylie, things just keep getting better in blue," Neufeld tweeted.
Wylie coached in 2009 in Saskatchewan as the Riders went to the Grey Cup that year. That 2007 Bombers team that Wylie coached also went to the Grey Cup.
In Wylie’s two seasons with Winnipeg, the Bombers had all-stars at every offensive line position.
Wylie’s hiring almost completes O’Shea’s new coaching staff. O’Shea’s final hiring yet to be announced is expected to be former Bombers special teams assistant Cory McDiarmid as the linebackers coach.
Also Tuesday, the Bombers announced that they had signed import offensive lineman Randy Richards and import linebacker Cyhl (pronounced Kyle) Quarles.
Richards (6-3, 203, Missouri State) played all 22 games in two seasons at Missouri State and was named American Football Coaches Association All-American and Missouri State’s Offensive Lineman of the Year.
He was a late cut of the San Diego Chargers in 2013 and spent time on Tampa Bay’s practice roster.
Quarles (6-3, 212, Wake Forest) attended the 2012 NFL Combine after a standout collegiate career. He went undrafted but signed a tryout contract with the Baltimore Ravens in 2012. He was released prior to the start of the 2012 season.