HAMILTON — Fewer than 48 hours from competing for a second straight Grey Cup, Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea was given yet another reason to be cast in the spot light.
O’Shea was awarded the CFL’s coach of the year honours Friday night at the Hamilton Convention Centre, beating out East Division nominee, Toronto Argonauts rookie head coach Ryan Dinwiddie. This marks the first time in O’Shea’s seven years coaching the Blue and Gold that he’s been recognized for the award.
And in typical O’Shea fashion, when he addressed reporters afterwards, he wanted nothing to do with the praise that inevitably comes with such recognition.
“I don’t know that you guys truly believe me or listen when I say I sit back and watch. When they did their little video montage and they say Mike O’Shea guided the offence, I did not guide the offence. Buck Pierce guides the offence,” O’Shea said.
“This coaching staff, those guys guide the offence. I don’t stick my nose in there. Richie Hall runs the defence; Paul Boudreau runs the special teams and Buck Pierce runs the offence and you really just have to let them to their job.”
If it were up to O’Shea, there wouldn’t be an awards show at all. It’s not as though he isn’t appreciative of the recognition, it’s just the timing that feels off. Not one to ever pat himself on the back, the Bombers head coach is never looking to be showered with praise, especially when his focus is on beating the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Sunday’s championship game at Tim Hortons Field.
“When you get the nomination, I don’t want to use the word forced, but it’s not the thing you really want to be doing,” O’Shea said.
“You want to be coaching and preparing for playoffs and reading over rosters and doing all that good football stuff. But it gives you the opportunity to look back on the coaches that have shaped you and there are many over the years.”
After winning the Grey Cup in 2019 for the first time since 1990, O’Shea led the Bombers to a CFL-best 11-3 record in 2021. The Bombers have made the playoffs in each of the last five seasons (the cancelled 2020 campaign notwithstanding), after missing the post-season his first two years, boasting a dismal 12-24 record.
“I think we were probably a little disillusioned. If I really were to be honest, I thought with the massive amount of change over the first couple of years, what really comes to mind is grace. If not for grace, I’m not standing here. That’s the bottom line,” O’Shea said.
“They gave me another opportunity, opportunities to get it right. This business doesn’t offer longevity. It doesn’t offer job security, so I am truly grateful for that.”
O’Shea not only credited his coaching staff for their hard work and determination, but also the work ethic of the players. He’s universally respect by members of the team, which is, at least in part, from his willingness to trust them and give them space to work.
“That’s part of my role. I also come from the school of… I’m not just going to try and talk about things that aren’t important. I think sometimes that gets me in trouble because I don’t yell and scream. I think the coaches know by now that if we have a casual conversation, it’s because it’s important,” he said.
“That’s one of the jobs as a coach is to give a player whatever he needs to be successful. And if that means letting a bunch of guys stay back in the hotel then that’s what you have to do. Honestly, I’d like to get back to the hotel and take a walk along the lakefront, take a deep breath.”
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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