Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The steady way of O'Shea

Coach not interested in making big deal of big game

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He might be the early front-runner for CFL Coach of the Year. And, if you listen to long-suffering Winnipeg Blue Bombers faithful, he may soon be nominated for sainthood for the miracle unfolding in Fort Garry.

But there are also times -- such as Wednesday, on the eve of the Bombers playing host to the Saskatchewan Roughriders -- when Mike O'Shea has people convinced he is part coach, part cyborg.

Big game.

Bigger rivalry.

A chance for the Bombers to measure themselves against the champs, right coach?

"I don't look at it that way," said O'Shea. "It's Week 7. It's a game we've got to win. From what I've been told, and I've watched over the years, it's a big rivalry game. But measuring stick? I don't look at it that way."

Asked what the Bombers measure themselves against, O'Shea continued with: "Our potential. Week in, week out, are we playing up to our potential that week? Are we going to improve, are we going to correct the mistakes and improve for the next week?"

Not exactly bulletin board material. When it comes to hyping a game, O'Shea doesn't exactly have a PhD in salesmanship. Frankly, that's by design. Right from the get-go he's downplayed the influence of pre-game speeches. He's set some firm ground rules and established a culture of expecting, not hoping, to win.

And as it's been said a gazillion times already this season, the buy-in has been complete.

The evidence was never more obvious than on Wednesday, when all of O'Shea's charges downplayed the "measuring stick" angle media attempted to float over and over again.

"Well, yeah, I guess if you want to put it that way," said defensive end Jason Vega. "They're the defending Grey Cup champs, they're usually the cream of the crop in the West. They have a lot of skilled football players, a great coaching staff. So, yeah, in a way you look at a game like this and you think, 'This will give us a feel for where we're at.' But you can definitely say the same about a lot of teams in this league, like Calgary or B.C.

"That's how we want to approach every week: like we're facing the best team they can possibly field."

"This is a big game because it's against our No. 1 rival," added Ian Wild. "But it's different this year. We have a lot of new guys on the team, guys who have come from Grey Cup teams, who have the mentality that winning five games isn't good enough.

"They expect to be undefeated and have 10- to 15-win seasons."

The new faces have been critical, no doubt. But the tone setter is the boss. So as much as the media poked and prodded O'Shea to crank up the Us vs. Them rivalry and the measuring-stick subplot, he just wouldn't go there.

No chest thumping. Swaggerville? Absolutely verboten.

"It's partly me and it's partly the guys in the dressing room," said O'Shea with a shrug when asked who is the source of that approach.

"They're pretty content on just continuing the course they're on and not too interested in trying to create that 'fluff', that extraneous fluff that has no bearing on us winning or losing. Our guys are confident. I'm not going to say they're not. They're confident in what they can do. But outside the room I don't think their egos take over at all. That's a credit to the guys we have in the locker-room."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 7, 2014 D2

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