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December 9, 2016

BLOG: Consistency

Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea during the game between the Montreal Alouettes and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Investors Group Field on Wednesday June 8, 2016 in Winnipeg, MB. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

Coach Mike O’Shea called General Manager and long-time friend Kyle Walters the morning of Grey Cup, and simply said, “let’s talk on Tuesday if you’re free”.

This was Coach O’Shea’s first formal talk on the topic of his pending contract expiration, and it was right in line with his principled beliefs. Sure, he could’ve came knocking during the club’s seven game win streak. And yes, the topic had indeed been brought to his attention during that run, but he couldn’t be bothered.

He was worried about the next opponent. The next practice. The next meeting. So it was only fitting that Coach didn’t want to talk until after the final whistle had blown on the 2016 season.

We often talked about it at random, usually just he and I, but it was casual conversations far from discussing contract specifics. We spoke about the future of the organization, and how strongly he felt about the community and his team. He moved his family here, after all. They are settled in school and sports, and doing things the right way is very important to him.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea during the game between the Montreal Alouettes and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Investors Group Field on Wednesday June 8, 2016 in Winnipeg, MB. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea during the game between the Montreal Alouettes and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Investors Group Field on Wednesday June 8, 2016 in Winnipeg, MB. (Photo: Johany Jutras)


 

And so last Tuesday afternoon, Mike and Kyle met at 12:30 p.m. at The Nob – a small pub near the stadium – and talked for a few hours. Two men who love the CFL chatting about the league, the season, and eventually, Coach’s extension. And while they were enjoying a drink on this Tuesday afternoon, I got a text from Kyle: “All good.”

Of course I knew what that meant, and this isn’t to say we ever thought it wasn’t going to be ‘all good,’ but consistency and stability are really the only ways to success and we wanted Mike back. No question.

We needed him back.

I tell this story often, but in this case it is worth repeating: A few years ago, shortly after Coach O’Shea’s hiring, I was chatting with an individual in an extremely high football management role in the National Football League. His team wins, and they win a lot. They are a model NFL franchise, and that afternoon our conversation turned to the Winnipeg Football Club and the struggles we had been experiencing.  As we talked, I mentioned that I was now working with my fourth Head Coach in five seasons, entering the sixth.

He almost fell out of his chair.

He looked at me and said, “well, there’s your first problem.” Enough said.

Stability being so crucial to a team’s success, having both our General Manager and Head Coach with extensions for the foreseeable future is vital for us. After staying the course following a rough start to the season, Coach O’Shea’s steady guidance helped the team develop an identity, a culture of perseverance and determination that led to a seven-game win streak and a new resolved mindset. They played for their coach and for each other, and that taste of success already fuels every single player to want more next year. To expect more.

Maybe it’s paranoia, or maybe it’s just not wanting to lose a valuable asset, but one late afternoon last week, we sent a little nudge to our highly respected Head Coach.

Outside of every office in the building is a nameplate with the individual’s name and title. When Coach arrived at his office one morning, his “Mike O’Shea, Head Coach” had been replaced. Instead, it read “Unknown, Head Coach.” He laughed, looked at me and said “hey, that’s a good reminder!”

During our rough start in 2016, Coach’s job security was discussed constantly in the media. And even though there were reports of his potential firing in local newspapers, there was never going to be a change. The experts had all the answers, of course. And Coach didn’t have a clue, of course. A day after our loss to Calgary, which dropped us to 1-4, I went down the hall to meet with Mike. He had just stepped out of his office, but I noticed a message from a player written on the whiteboard behind his chair:

“Just came to say what’s up coach. We got you.”

They sure did, and we’re damn happy to have him too.

 

Darren