O’Shea ‘absolutely’ committed to Bombers CEO, head coach confident new deal will be worked out after Grey Cup

REGINA — When a coach in professional sports is on an expiring contract, he’s often referred to as a lame duck. Then there’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea.

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REGINA — When a coach in professional sports is on an expiring contract, he’s often referred to as a lame duck. Then there’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea.

O’Shea is in the final year of a three-year deal, and with no contract for next season his future has become a natural storyline over Grey Cup week.

For those outside of Winnipeg, and especially those who don’t pay much attention to the day-to-day operations of the Bombers, it’s certainly being viewed as a peculiar situation. It’s led to speculation that O’Shea is unhappy or could potentially be on the move.

HEYWOOD YU / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea is focused on preparing his team for the Grey Cup this week.

For those on the inside, however, it’s simply business as usual. Especially to the man signing his cheques.

“When you look at it, we probably don’t do things the same way as most. Most don’t have the tenure that we have in all the coaching roles,” Bombers president and CEO Wade Miller told the Free Press. “Mike and I will get (his contract) figured out. We do each year, it’s just at the right time.”

Timing has proven to be a critical component in negotiating a new deal with O’Shea, and the last one certainly worked in the coach’s favour.

O’Shea signed an extension at the end of the 2019 season, shortly after leading the Bombers to their first Grey Cup in 29 years. This time around he’ll enter negotiations having won another league title and is in the midst of challenging for a third when the Bombers meet the Toronto Argonauts in the 109th Grey Cup at Mosaic Stadium on Sunday.

O’Shea was also named the CFL’s coach of the year in 2021 and is expected to win it again at the annual CFL awards show tonight. Simply put, he’s as good it gets.

Miller is a savvy businessman, so he knows well the power of leverage. In this case, O’Shea has all of it, and while Miller isn’t losing much sleep over getting his team’s leader signed, there’s still work to be done.

It’s not all smooth sailing. There are some hurdles to clear, including working around a football operations salary cap of $2.59 million.

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O’Shea was named the CFL’s coach of the year in 2021.

“There’s only so much (money). So, that’s a challenge,” Miller said. “But, again, we get it done every time and we’ll figure it out.”

For O’Shea, it doesn’t feel odd to be without a commitment beyond this season. When pressed by reporters about his contract status earlier this week, he echoed much of what Miller said, adding he’s been happy with the way things have been dealt with in the past and will address his future sometime after this week.

“I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it, to tell you the truth,” he said. “If I’m asking our players to stay in the moment and stay focused on the very important task at hand, I don’t waste a lot of time during the season worrying about after the season.”

“That’s what makes Mike so good is that singular focus of winning each week,” added Miller.

O’Shea can be guarded with his comments, and you could tell he was uncomfortable discussing business during such an important week for his team. He hasn’t even had preliminary talks with Miller about a new deal.

He did provide an interesting tidbit that gives some valuable insight into what might come. O’Shea was asked about his mentality heading into contract negotiations.

“I’ve always believed that contracts are really about what you’re going to do, going forward,” he said. “Not about what you did in the past.”

PAUL CHIASSON / CANADIAN PRESS FILES

O’Shea is in the final year of a three-year deal, and with no contract for next season his future has become a natural storyline over Grey Cup week.

It’s long been rumoured that O’Shea is looking for added responsibility, but whether that is to have the general manager tag added to his title or another prominent executive role is unclear. That wouldn’t be an easy transition, not with Kyle Walters under contract through the 2023 season, not to mention the success he’s had as the team’s GM.

Whichever way things unfold, O’Shea did offer some hope for anyone doubting his future in Winnipeg. When asked if he was committed to the Bombers beyond this year, he gave the kind of answer fans would hope for.

“Absolutely,” O’Shea said.

Miller knows getting O’Shea under contract is his most important piece of business this off-season. He also understands the power of continuity.

It wasn’t that long ago he was faced with pressure from media and fans to ditch O’Shea after the Bombers went 12-24 through his first two seasons. Miller, however, knew what O’Shea was building was special.

O’Shea proved him right.

“Mike is just a unique, driven, focused, and he cares about his players, like we do as an organization. He symbolizes that,” Miller said.

PAUL CHIASSON / CANADIAN PRESS FILES

“I’ve always believed that contracts are really about what you’re going to do, going forward,” O'Shea said.

“If I’m honest, it took one more year than I thought it would (to win the Grey Cup). I thought it would take five years. Because you just don’t build something overnight. You do not change an entire culture, you do not change what you have overnight, and it takes time to build it.

When you look back on the history of the Winnipeg Football Club or others teams that you keep changing out, you hire the right people and then you work and we find a way to make it work. And we have the right people.”

Jeff.Hamilton@freepress.mb.ca

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.

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