January 21, 2020

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Other teams may be looking, but coach O'Shea has little interest in leaving

Winnipeg Blue Bomber head coach Mike O'Shea with his wife, Richere, and daughters, during the Grey Cup parade. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)</p>

Winnipeg Blue Bomber head coach Mike O'Shea with his wife, Richere, and daughters, during the Grey Cup parade. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)

He's on an expiring contract and fresh from directing an end to Winnipeg's 29-year championship drought.

In another context, that would make Mike O'Shea a prime candidate for CFL teams in the market for a head coach.

Yet on Friday morning, the 49-year-old O'Shea didn't sound like he had much interest in leaving after leading the Blue Bombers to victory in Sunday's Grey Cup game — a 33-12 decision over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The triumph capped a six-year odyssey for O'Shea, who had no head coaching experience when he was chosen for the Winnipeg job prior to the 2014 season.

"We just won a Grey Cup so we’ve got a good group here," said O'Shea during his final media availability of the 2019 season. "It’s been a great journey, being a part of this. It has taken longer than I thought, but it’s neat to be a part of building something, so, I do like it here."

O'Shea admitted he had talks with management about a new deal early Friday and the chances of him returning in 2020 were "pretty high."

But with enticing vacancies in Edmonton, Ottawa and B.C., O'Shea was asked if he was tempted to explore any of those options.

"I haven’t given a lot of thought to that," he said. "Obviously, there’s been a lot of business to take care of... like any post-season. And winning the Grey Cup changes a lot of that.

Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea gets a sports drink poured over him after the team's Grey Cup victory. (Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press files)</p>

Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea gets a sports drink poured over him after the team's Grey Cup victory. (Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press files)

"The way American Thanksgiving fell (this weekend), we didn’t get a chance to have a true end-of-year meeting with the entire team, the staff. We’re trying to get exit meetings done with the players who are still here so I’m not too concerned with what’s going on around the league. I’m still trying to look after our business here."

If O'Shea is off the market, the most intriguing head coaching candidate in the league may be Winnipeg offensive co-ordinator Paul LaPolice, who has been given a lot of credit for managing Winnipeg's chaotic, injury-ravaged quarterback contingent all the way to a title.

The Lions and Redblacks have reportedly asked to interview LaPolice, a 20-year veteran of the CFL coaching ranks. O'Shea said the interest is well-earned.

"He’s been excellent," O'Shea said. "He’s managed to move game plans around and use the talent of the roster to the best of his abilities, put guys in great positions to allow us to win games and be very successful through the playoff run and the Grey Cup.

"I don’t know that he’d have any regrets, really. Any good play-caller, offensively or defensively and special teams-wise, will always check what they do for validity after the fact and I’m sure, for the most part, our staff won’t have too many regrets, the way the playoffs went, the way the calls went."

The Blue Bombers will have to get used to other organizations trying to poach some of their best employees.

Another report Friday suggested the Montreal Alouettes had asked for permission to speak to Bombers assistant GM Danny McManus and director of college scouting Ryan Rigmaiden about their vacant GM post.

"There’s a reason why we’ve had success and that’s because there’s a lot of people working very hard to do their jobs to make sure they make this a better place," said O'Shea. "One of the names, (assistant GM) Ted Goveia, should be in that conversation, too, but there’s coaches that are being looked at for other positions, there’s players that are being called about and there’s staff members that should be looked at for other roles and positions in other organizations.

"We just won a Grey Cup so we’ve got a good group here," Bombers coach MIke O'Shea said during his final media availability of the 2019 season. "It’s been a great journey, being a part of this. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

"We just won a Grey Cup so we’ve got a good group here," Bombers coach MIke O'Shea said during his final media availability of the 2019 season. "It’s been a great journey, being a part of this. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

"I think we’re starting to realize that’s what other organizations go through every year. I’m sure Calgary has to put up with this every single year." (The Stampeders have appeared in three of the last four Grey Cups prior to last weekend.)

Another vital off-season concern is what GM Kyle Walters and his brain trust will do at quarterback: Veterans Zach Collaros, Chris Streveler and Matt Nichols are all due to become free agents in February.

"The first step of the process is to get the input from the staff, have those conversations first, look at the numbers, watch film," said O'Shea.

"Really, you'd say it's the most important position on the field. You can say that in football, although (running back) Andrew Harris and (defensive end) Willie Jefferson and (linebacker) Adam Bighill would argue, so would a lot of other players, right?"

The 2020 season will be complicated further by important changes to roster rules: CFL teams will be permitted to dress only two quarterbacks and each club will be required to have two active global players, up from one in 2019.

"We'll figure out the quarterback situation as we go along. It does make it a little tougher, obviously," said O'Shea.

Meanwhile, German defender Thiadric Hansen made an excellent transition in his CFL debut.

"In terms of the globals, we've got three guys (Manuel Hernandez-Reyes and Sergio Schiaffino Perez, both from Mexico, spent the season on the practice roster) on our team that are great teammates, that are Winnipeg Blue Bombers," added O'Shea. "They're not globals, they are just Winnipeg Blue Bomber players that their teammates love... They contribute every day and they can go out there and play."

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Sports Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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