CFL season wild to the very end Bombers put Grey Cup loss in past, focus on building for next championship run

What a wild finish it was to the 2022 CFL season.

Read this article for free:


Already have an account? Log in here »

To continue reading, please subscribe:

Monthly Digital Subscription

$4.75 per week*

  • Enjoy unlimited reading on
  • Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
  • Access News Break, our award-winning app
  • Play interactive puzzles

*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.

What a wild finish it was to the 2022 CFL season.

I’ll be the first to admit my surprise over the Toronto Argonauts winning the 109th Grey Cup. Not because I thought the Argos weren’t a good team, I just never imagined they’d be good enough to knock off the defending back-to-back champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who were chasing history with the chance to win a third straight league title.

Having covered the CFL for years now, and with all the crazy things you see in the three-down game, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised at all. Either way, a hearty congratulations goes out to Toronto for the victory and hopefully it can lead to better things for a franchise that has struggled financially for years.

As for the Bombers, they’ve had some time to lick their wounds, come to grips with the loss and focus on the future. General manager Kyle Walters is already hard at work, inking key contributors in defensive end Willie Jefferson, linebacker Adam Bighill and offensive lineman Patrick Neufeld all to extensions.

Indeed, just because the season is officially over that doesn’t mean the news stops. There’s plenty to discuss over the past week, so let’s get into it with in the latest edition of CFL Rundown.

1) If you were to have asked me after the Bombers locker cleanout day last week who I thought would be the first to sign an extension, the first two names I would have said were Jefferson and Neufeld. In talking with them, it seemed like the deals had already been finalized. Bighill isn’t surprising, but I was curious what, if anything, to think about him skipping out of interviews that day. Turns out it was nothing, and a big piece of the Bombers defence and leadership group is back for not just one, but two more seasons.

2) Don’t be surprised if there’s more signings in the coming weeks. I could see fellow O-linemen Stanley Bryant and Jermarcus Hardrick both getting a deal done soon. That might depend on how much money is available from the 2022 salary cap, as that cash is still in play until the new year.

3) Of course, there’s still one expiring contract that is bigger than all others and that’s head coach Mike O’Shea. I’ve written several times that O’Shea will be back with the Blue and Gold and it’s only a matter of him finding the time to sit down and hammer out a new extension. Well, there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel, with TSN reporting Tuesday that the Bombers and O’Shea have settled on another three-year deal. That shouldn’t be much of a surprise, as O’Shea has signed three-year contracts over his entire time in Winnipeg and this would be his fourth consecutive three-year pact. As I type that, it’s kind of wild to think O’Shea will have been in Winnipeg for 12 seasons. That’s the total number of years he played with the Argos, although that doesn’t include the four seasons he spent in Toronto as the special-teams co-ordinator.

4) To be clear, a deal will get done, but I’m not sure an announcement is imminent, even with Walters set to speak to media at 10:30 Thursday morning. As is often the case in these fluid situations, things can change by the hour, but as of Wednesday afternoon things were still pretty quiet. What I’ve been told is there are still some details to iron out, because if there’s anything to be said about O’Shea it’s how much attention he gives to the seemingly small stuff; it’s why he’s such a respected coach. Welcome back, Mike.

5) TSN also reported the Bombers gave permission to offensive co-ordinator Buck Pierce to interview for the Ottawa Redblacks coaching job that is now vacant after Paul LaPolice was let go mid-season. The report noted Pierce ultimately turned down the opportunity to interview, which might come as a surprise to some. It shouldn’t, though, as Pierce has always been picky about where he goes and has turned down promotions in the past. While I don’t feel comfortable speaking for Pierce — he keeps his cards close to his vest, much like O’Shea — my guess is he likely won’t move his family somewhere that he isn’t sure will be a long-term and good fit. His wife, Lori, has battled two bouts with cancer in recent years and with two small children, you’re not uprooting your family unless you’re sure. I wrote about Pierce eventually being a head coach, but he’s clearly good with what he currently has in Winnipeg.

6) After the Argos won the Cup, I got several emails from fans — and not just from Winnipeg — wishing it had been won by a more deserving fan base. While I kind of understand the sentiment, I don’t agree, if only because Toronto was deserving of being named champions and while the fan base could be bigger, I’m not sure it could be more passionate. I do wonder about what, if any, momentum will come of it. When Toronto won the Cup in 2017, they saw just marginal bump in attendance the following year, from an average of 13,913 fans to 14,210 – an increase of just 297 fans per game.

7) Over Grey Cup week I garnered a new appreciation for Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie. In speaking with him several times, he’s clearly a players’ coach with a high football IQ. In just two years at the helm, Dinwiddie has been the East nominee for coach of the year twice, has finished the regular season atop the East standings in both years and has one Grey Cup. My take is Dinwiddie is so hyper-focused on the X’s and O’s that he just blocks out any outside noise, including when players berate him on the sidelines. Once he’s comfortable at handling both, he’s going to be the next O’Shea.

8) After quarterback Chad Kelly helped lead the Argos to an unlikely fourth-quarter comeback to clinch the Grey Cup, he went on a U.S. radio station days later and talked about how he was unable to celebrate with his teammates afterwards for about 20 minutes while the CFL got him to undergo a drug test. Kelly rightfully chuckled throughout telling the story and quipped, “this ain’t random, baby.” This is a perfect segue into letting fans know that drug tests in the CFL are not actually random, or at least not in the way you think they are.

9) In fact, they can be pretty selective. For example, if a rookie comes into the league and starts lighting it up, he’ll get tested. If a player suddenly catches fire in his second season, he’s tested. If you’re leading in any statistical category, you’re tested. Kelly coming off the bench and performing the way he did, it’s not all that surreal he was asked to pee in a cup. There’s even a hotline that players can call if they suspect a player is using illegal drugs and, guess what, they’ll be tested, too. Where things get random is in deciding which urine samples actually make it to the lab. For instance, if 10 players submit urine samples, only half might actually get tested and those that do are randomly selected. So, in theory, a player could be doping and unless their sample is selected, they won’t get caught.

10) Hot take: Kelly will be the starting QB in Toronto by next season and by latest the 2024 campaign. His late-game heroics cemented that, giving owners Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment the perfect excuse to make Kelly the face of their franchise. If we know anything about MLSE, it’s how much they believe future success means having international appeal — hello, failed partnership with the XFL that they were so wanting to happen — and Kelly, the nephew of legendary NFL QB Jim Kelly, gives them just that. The only obstacle is if McLeod Bethel-Thompson returns for another year. Bethel-Thompson sounded after the Grey Cup like a guy who was ready to hang them up, but recent reports say he’s undergone surgery on his injured thumb and will be ready to throw sometime in January.

11) There haven’t been many updates on QB Bo Levi Mitchell since he was traded from Calgary to Hamilton earlier this month, besides Mitchell publicly stating that he planned to test free agency and see what else was out there. I still think Mitchell signs with the Ticats, as it makes the most sense as far as opportunity on and off the field. Simply put, with Hamilton, Mitchell has a chance to win another Grey Cup and for someone who wants to be in the media after he retires, a short drive into Toronto doesn’t hurt.

12) Finally, congratulations to Laval University and the Rouge et Or for defeating the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in the Vanier Cup. Laval has been a powerhouse in U-Sport football for years, winning five of the last 10 Vanier Cups. Tough go for the Huskies, who have lost the last two championships by a single score, including a 30-24 loss to Laval.

Twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

Report Error Submit a Tip