Blue Bomber Report Record: 5–1–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New Blue head coach O'Shea not scared by Winnipeg's temperatures nor enormity of his job

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Winnipeg Blue Bombers new head coach Mike O'Shea has begun to put his imprint on the team.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Winnipeg Blue Bombers new head coach Mike O'Shea has begun to put his imprint on the team. Photo Store

No, he hasn't bought a house in Winnipeg yet.

But yes, Mike O'Shea still intends to do so, despite the fact he and his family have been keeping themselves keenly aware this winter of what they're getting themselves into.

"We've been keeping tabs, the family and I. And if one day we miss the weather report, we have at least 10 people tell us what the weather is like in Winnipeg," said the rookie Blue Bombers head coach Wednesday via telephone from the relatively balmy confines of his current home in Milton, Ont.

So, any second thoughts about moving your family to a city that made international headlines last month with weather so cold it was being rated on an interplanetary scale?

"No," he said with a laugh, "not yet."

And so with that, we can draw our first conclusion about the makeup of the new Bombers head coach: He doesn't scare easily.

Which is not only good, it's absolutely essential and should be in the job description for any man taking over the reigns of a football team that has won just nine games in the past two seasons, has missed the CFL playoffs in four of the last five years and has blown through four head coaches since 2008.

Hired Dec. 4 as the newest Bombers field boss, O'Shea -- a former linebacker and special teams coach with the Toronto Argonauts -- has now had a little over a month to peek behind the curtains of the Bombers organization and he was asked if, after looking at things a little more closely, he had any buyer's remorse.

"No, that hasn't changed at all. It's very comforting to know that a month later, I still have that same feeling -- that there's great support," said O'Shea.

"From the initial interview process through to signing, it's that same feeling -- there's a group of people in that organization that are extremely commited to winning and to restoring that pride in the organization...

"I picked a good one."

O'Shea has begun to put his imprint on the team. After rehiring offensive co-ordinator Marcel Bellefeuille and receivers coach Markus Howell, O'Shea went deep into his past this week in hiring Pat Tracey -- the longtime defensive co-ordinator at Queen's University and a man O'Shea describes as a mentor -- to take over from Craig Dickenson as Winnipeg's special teams co-ordinator in 2014.

Tracey was O'Shea's defensive co-ordinator when the latter was a linebacker at Guelph University in the 1990s and he credits Tracey with laying the foundation for what became a long and successful CFL career.

"That bar that he set high was important for my development. He was always there when I had questions and was always interested in me doing well," said O'Shea. "And I would call him for advice and ideas and he was always there, a phone call away.

"And more than that, he's been a friend -- a guy I could rely on."

With special teams now out of the way, O'Shea will turn his attention for the rest of this month -- he wants his staff fully hired by the end of January -- to filling Winnipeg's vacant defensive co-ordinator position, as well as hiring assistants to coach the offensive line and secondary.

Interestingly, O'Shea says he'd also like to hire a dedicated quarterbacks coach, something the Bombers haven't had for a few years.

"We're looking at all the possibilities," said O'Shea. "But my preference would be to definitely have a quarterbacks coach. I think it's a necessity in the CFL."

O'Shea said the search for a new defensive co-ordinator is winding down, but there are still "at least four" names on his list. "It's ongoing," said O'Shea. "There's still people that I've yet to talk to that have sort of come to light recently. And there's other guys that I'm continuing to talk to."

The Bombers were believed to be pursuing Rich Stubler for their post, but Stubler elected to sign with the Calgary Stampeders last month instead. O'Shea was asked if the team's struggles on the field and turmoil off of it in recent seasons has made Winnipeg a difficult to sell to prospective coaching candidates.

His answer was a bit cryptic.

"Initially, they all wonder," he said. "That's part of the process any potential condidate will go through. I would suggest that if a guy is asking about a job but doesn't care about the organization, then he's probably not the right guy.

"I'm quite prepared to answer any questions the candidates would have about this organization -- and I'd expect them to have those questions. And I would also expect that when they hear me describe the organization and the passion with which I describe it with and the support level I describe, they get their answers fairly quickly...

"It's about hiring guys who are looking for solutions. I don't view the structure of the organization of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as being problematic at all. I view it as they've got a renewed sense of commitment and leadership."

One of the biggest answers everyone is still looking for is who will be the Bombers starting quarterback in 2014. While it's the worst kept secret in the CFL that the Bombers first choice is to sign Argos backup Zach Collaros when he becomes a free agent on Feb. 15, O'Shea was mum on the subject.

"It's not the right protocol to go into details about free agents, at quarterback or other positions," said O'Shea, adding that regardless of who the Bombers sign at QB this winter, the starting quarterback question is going to remain unresolved for months to come.

"The real answers are going to have to wait longer than that," said O'Shea. "I believe in my mind that we will find out who our starting quarterback is in training camp. Right now, at this moment as I see it, your starting quarterback will be the guy who wins the job in training camp."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @PaulWiecek

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 9, 2014 D1

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Updated on Thursday, January 9, 2014 at 6:42 AM CST: Changes headline, replaces photo

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