November 22, 2019

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Opinion

Attention O'Shea: Fire Etcheverry

Forget loyalty, Blue defensive co-ordinator has to go

Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive co-ordinator Gary Etcheverry barks orders during a workout last season. In retrospect, the orders were the wrong ones.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive co-ordinator Gary Etcheverry barks orders during a workout last season. In retrospect, the orders were the wrong ones.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/11/2014 (1833 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/11/2014 (1833 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Mike O'Shea probably knows he should fire Gary Etcheverry and be done with it.

But it won't be that easy for the head coach.

Loyalty isn't a word O'Shea loosely spits out. In fact, it's hard to remember him ever using the word. Likely because it's a given for O'Shea and it doesn't need mention. File it under actions speaking louder than words with this coach.

Unfortunately, loyalty and being a head coach in pro football don't always make for good bedfellows. Ruthlessness is often the required attribute.

O'Shea should Band-Aid his defensive co-ordinator and move on. Tear it off quickly to minimize the pain. But don't be surprised if O'Shea digs in his heels and sticks with his man.

Keeping Etcheverry on staff is the wrong move from the tactical and survival perspectives. All coaches are hired to be fired, including O'Shea. Keeping Etcheverry will likely result in the negativity associated with the defensive coach sticking to the head coach.

The entire city wants Etcheverry clipped. No one would question the move. O'Shea can show strength and the willingness to make hard decisions by getting rid of his former coach and mentor. He can escape some of the building heat around himself and without saying a word, push the blame onto Etcheverry.

O'Shea, however, won't take any of this into consideration. Not yet. Maybe never. A few more years as a head coach might make him more callous and conniving. Today, however, these are not characteristics he embodies.

No, O'Shea will look for every reason to keep Etcheverry. He'll want to believe Etcheverry is part of the path to success.

But, after what we saw on the field this summer, even for O'Shea, such a conclusion would be a stretch.

Etcheverry's defence was terrible and was as big a reason as any for the Blue Bombers plummeting from an early 5-1 record to an unsatisfactory 7-11 finish. Likely the biggest.

No doubt CEO Wade Miller and GM Kyle Walters are looking over O'Shea's shoulder and wondering what the coach's move will be. It's not that they want blood, but they will want clear and evident solutions for the future.

Looking at Etcheverry and his defensive scheme, it's hard to believe he's the answer, especially in the run-happy West Division.

All one has to do is look at the offensive lines in Calgary and Regina, which are stacked with youth, size and ability, and it's pretty clear this isn't an era for small and speedy defences. Size rules in the West and that's not Etcheverry's game. His is an undersized unit of tweeners swarming to the ball. The problem is they can be swatted away like gnats, as we saw all too often this summer.

Can Etcheverry adjust? Is he willing to change? These are questions Miller and Walters will put to O'Shea. Hopefully, he won't be blinded by loyalty for which the entire organization will suffer.

There are young coaches in the CFL ready to be defensive co-ordinators, such as Saskatchewan's defensive backs coach Barron Miles and Calgary defensive line coach DeVone Claybrooks. O'Shea doesn't need to stand by his man. There are available options.

Etcheverry had a lot of control last season — from scheme to personnel decisions. It was a bust. Last in the league in points allowed and rushing yards. That was end of the story.

O'Shea might determine Etcheverry can fix things and elect to keep him. But he'll be tying himself to this decision and if it doesn't work, people will be asking questions about the head coach and not just about his defensive co-ordinator.

 

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @garylawless

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