For McManus, it’s all about winning
Bombers assistant GM and super scout in pursuit of fifth Grey Cup ring
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/12/2021 (254 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
HAMILTON — It’s Day 1 of training camp for the 1999 edition of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and head coach Ron Lancaster wanted to give the team some extra motivation heading into the season.
Lancaster popped in a tape of the previous year’s Grey Cup, a game the Tiger-Cats lost 26-24 to the Calgary Stampeders on a walkoff field goal, and made his troops watch to the bitter end. As painful as it was to relive, Ticats quarterback Danny McManus, now the assistant general manager and director of U.S. scouting for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, said it was exactly what they needed.
“He flipped on the lights and he goes ‘It’s time to go to work.’ At that point, I really think that was when we won the (’99) Grey Cup. When Ronnie flipped the lights on, everyone was focused to go to work,” McManus told the Free Press Wednesday afternoon at McMaster University — the site of the first Bombers practice of Grey Cup week.The Tabbies and Stamps would meet in the CFL championship game again that year, only this time it was Hamilton that came away as the victors with a 32-21 triumph at B.C. Place.The 2021 Ticats have a chance to write a similar story as they have an opportunity to avenge their 2019 Grey Cup loss to the Blue Bombers. The two sides meet again on Sunday, this time in Hamilton at Tim Hortons Field, in another battle for the most prestigious prize in Canadian football. Hamilton also has a chance to end the longest current Grey Cup drought in the league as they haven’t won a title since McManus led the way in 1999.
As much as McManus loves the city where he played from 1998-2005, he hopes their drought can last a little longer and that the current group doesn’t get the taste of sweet revenge like he did 22 years ago.
“As many feelings as it might hurt, yes, I’m hoping it doesn’t play out that way. I’m hoping to be on the winning side again,” McManus said “… think (Hamilton is extra motivated) and I mean, rightfully so… But our guys are hungry. Just as hungry as they are. It’ll be a good ballgame.”
When McManus joined the Bombers’ football-operations staff at the end of 2013, they were nowhere close to being a team capable of winning back-to-back championships.
That’s why a trusted eye such as McManus was brought in. The hope was his knowledge of the game could help the organization find the right talent to turn the Blue and Gold ship into the right direction.
Well, mission accomplished. The team has continued to get better and better since McManus has been in the fold. He lives in Venice, Fla., but his job requires him to travel all over the United States searching high and low for hidden gems. McManus, who refers to himself as a “glorified truck driver,” attends NCAA games, NFL pre-season games, and organizes free-agent camps throughout the U.S. in the offseason.
It’s a job where there’s no time for vacation as you don’t want to fall a step behind all the competing eyes, but it’s also a job that McManus, now 56, still loves all these years later.”I enjoy it more now. I really do. Each time I get a chance to go out, it’s the chase that I like,” he said.
He also remains motivated, even though he’s already helped the Bombers reach the top of the mountain.
“All the one-year (player) contracts, that’s what keeps you going, because your team is going to change over. You’re going to try to keep your core guys that your team is built on and that coach (Mike) O’Shea wants to make sure that we try and keep. But some are going to move. Some are going to go somewhere else… so you have to find some guys to bring in. There’s always that drive to find that right piece,” said McManus.
Chasing talent has been made much more difficult in these past two years, thanks to the global pandemic. Depending on which university he’s at or which NFL team he’s visiting, the rules vary. Some places will still let McManus watch practice in person, but many teams now prefer to have him spectate from a far away distance in the press box. Some teams are even going as far as not allowing McManus anywhere near the action, which leaves him no choice but to learn what he can by watching film.
“It’s being on the field and watching what a player is like not only on the field, but what he’s like off the field. How he relates to his teammates, that’s an important factor. Does he fit into what coach O’Shea is looking for? And we don’t get to see that. We don’t have that personal touch, that personal feeling of talking to a guy,” McManus said.
“What kind of player is he? Is he motivated? Does he love football? Or is he just doing it for what football can get out of him? You really don’t get that on a Zoom call. You can ask those questions, but sometimes Zoom calls are tailored or orchestrated the way the person wants you to think you’re doing.”
McManus has been able to make it work, though, and the proof is in the pudding as one of his best finds to date is rookie defensive back DeAundre Alford out of Tusculum University. The Div. II product was named a West Division all-star this year.
Win or lose Sunday, McManus is already a hot commodity in CFL circles. The Montreal Alouettes were interested in him in 2019, but McManus dropped out of the running as he wanted to stay with Winnipeg. But what about now? Does McManus aspire to be a general manager one day?
“I definitely do. It’s a great opportunity. Everyone’s dream is to have your own team and see what you can do with it. But I enjoy what I do now. Where I’m at in Florida, it’s tough to beat. We don’t have the white stuff on the ground,” McManus said with a laugh.
“The timing will be right when it comes and if the situation is what I’m looking for, but right now, I enjoy what I’m doing. It gives me some goals to shoot at someday being a general manager and trying to put all these pieces together. I think that would be a fascinating experience.”
With the Edmonton Elks and Ottawa Redblacks on the hunt for new GMs, it’s an experience that realistically could happen sooner rather than later. For McManus to take the plunge, pack up his things in Florida and move up north full time to fill the void for an organization, it would only be for a place that shares the same values as him.
“They got to be committed to winning and not committed to just putting a decent product on the field. Winning is the most important thing. All these guys out here that are in between the white lines, all they care about is winning. When I was a player, that’s all I cared about: winning,” said McManus.
“I want to go out there and do the best that I can and I want to know that the coaches are putting me in the position to do that. I wanna know that the staff and management are putting every effort they have in helping me win. When you have the whole full circle, then you have it going in the right direction.”
But this week McManus finds himself more focused on filling a different void. A personal one, in fact.
“I was doing the math in my head on the plane ride here. This is my ninth Grey Cup and I have a 4-4 record,” said McManus, who won three rings as a player and one in his current role with the Bombers in 2019.
“I’d like to get one for my thumb.”
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