November 29, 2023

“I’m most proud that we’ve gotten there.”

The shroud of uncertainty having now disappeared, Kyle Walters & Co. now have their eyes fully fixed on keeping the Winnipeg Blue Bombers among the Canadian Football League’s elite.

The club announced a two-year contract extension for Walters, the GM, as well as extensions for assistant GMs Danny McManus and Ted Goveia on Tuesday, providing the organizational stability needed for what will be both an intriguing and challenging offseason for a team that has been to four consecutive Grey Cup games, winning in 2019 and 2021, but which is also greying around the temples.

The Blue Bombers have posted seven consecutive double-digit win seasons dating to 2016 and have morphed into the CFL’s powerhouse – a goal for Walters when he was first named GM in 2014, and then hired Mike O’Shea as head coach and McManus and Goveia as assistant GMs.

Asked what he’s most proud of after 10 years, Walters offered this:

“I think that just as a group we’ve stayed together. We haven’t had to fire anybody, I’m proud of that. We hired Mike, hired Ted, hired Danny,” he said. “We’ve kind of grown as a group and we’ve built this into a… Calgary was the model back then. It was like, ‘Man, it would be nice to be like Calgary’ where they don’t do anything on free agency, but they’re always competing for a championship.

“I’m most proud that we’ve gotten there. We’ve got to that Calgary model of consistency and competing for championships, Western finals each year and figuring out a way to put a roster on the field that can compete. That’s what I’m most proud of, that we’ve taken this to a competitive team from a not-a-very-competitive team.”

Walters’ session with the media on Wednesday and spoke for almost 24 minutes. Here are the main takeaways:


Walters spoke openly during Grey Cup week about the uncertainty surrounding his situation and that of McManus and Goveia, as all were working on expiring contracts. Their deals now extended; the group can now start attacking their offseason to-do list.

“It’s looking forward to getting things moving now. The uncertainty is over,” he said. “We’ve got everything ready to roll now. Things are in place, and now we’re excited to get going for next year.”

Walters said the top priority is to begin their post-season roster meetings with the management and coaching staff, although even that is impacted by the Saskatchewan Roughriders interest in offensive coordinator Buck Pierce for their head coaching vacancy (more on that below). All that, he said, has not set the club back in its planning at all as other teams are in various stages of this as well.

Given where the roster currently is with 23 players 30 or older, Walters admitted this offseason will be a ‘bigger challenge’ than in recent years.

“At this point last year, after the season we had, after losing a tough one to Toronto in the Grey Cup, we had a core group and said ‘Let’s try to bring as many of the guys back as we can.’ And we did,” he said. “We lost Casey Sayles (Hamilton) and Michael Couture moved on (to B.C.), but we had replacements in house and said, ‘This almost feels like we’ve got the core group to make another run.’

“We’re a year older now and I think this will be a more challenging off-season than in years past because of the transition and the potential loss of Buck. If Buck ends up leaving, that’s another piece that needs to be added and getting familiar with whoever that may be if Buck leaves. We’ll have a new offensive coordinator, and we’ll need to figure out the types of people that he wants around as far as personnel. Yeah, this will be more of an interesting off-season and a challenge, for all those reasons, than in years past.”


The Roughriders have reportedly narrowed their coaching search down to Pierce and Argonauts defensive coordinator Corey Mace. Pierce, a popular QB here during his playing days, has been on staff since 2014 with the last three years as offensive coordinator. The Blue Bombers were first in offence in 2023, a year after finishing second in scoring.

When asked what kind of loss it would be to see Pierce exit, Walters was succinct.

“Huge. I mean, Buck’s been here for a lot of years,” he said. “He’s ingrained in the community, his family is. He’s good at what he does. He’s really good at what he does, and when you lose good people it’s tough to replace but that’s part of sport.

“You look at what Calgary had to go through during all those years, where they would lose, it seemed, a coach every year would move on. So, it’s a challenge that, luckily for us, we’ve been able to avoid up until this point with our success, for the most part. But it is a reality of success, that you’re going to lose good people.”


Both Brady Oliveira and Dalton Schoen are coming off a pair of outstanding seasons and that success might generate interest down south or on the CFL open market, which begins on February 13th.

“You put a plan together with what you think is a fair offer and every time the agents think vastly differently,” said Walters when asked how he will approach the Oliveira/Schoen negotiations. “So, it’s quite a process, particularly with the high-end guys who deserve to explore the market value and they’ve earned the right to capitalize financially on their success.

“We’ll see. I’m sure it will be a fairly long process and their agents will do their due diligence and figure out what the best situation is.”

On Schoen:

“His agent is certainly open to listening. The players have their agents for exactly this time of year. They’re paid to do the best for their client, whether it’s comfortable position or monetarily. So, we’ll see. We’ll talk. We’ve been talking and they’re in no rush to sign a contract, that’s for sure.”

On Oliveira:

“Brady has put himself in a position to now take a deep breath and it’s the same thing with his agent. They’ll talk and they’ll sit down and say, ‘What’s the best situation for Brady?’ Each player is different with that. Obviously, money is an issue, players will want to know who our offensive co-ordinator is moving forward, which players are getting re-signed, for running backs they’d like to know what the O-line is going to look like. Brady is obviously a top free agent in the CFL this year. He and his agent are obviously going to do their due diligence and make the best decision for them.”


The Blue Bombers may have some of the tough roster decisions taken out of their hands if some players decide to retire on their own. Walters said Wednesday they’ll let players decompress for a spell before revisiting that. At the same time, there are also some players playing the back nine of their careers, to borrow a golf analogy.

On potential retirements:

“We’ll have to see. The loss was so emotional that I think a lot of guys talked and were upset and made some statements or let it be known that (retirement) could potentially be an option. I think the best thing is to let things settle down for a month, take a deep breath and revisit guys with what’s their plan and what are we thinking for next year. It was such a devastating loss for all of us it’s taken a little bit of time to get over. Don’t make a rash decision based on the raw emotion that you’re feeling after a loss like that. That’s where we’re at.”

And his answer to the question of how a management team knows when it’s time to move on from a veteran:

“You don’t. You study the performance of a player, and you have to assume, try to predict how they’re going to be next year,” he said. “You speak with your medical staff at length about guys. And salaries have a lot to do with it too. Generally, the older guys, rightfully so, are making more money. It’s not just a matter of age, it’s salary, on-field productivity, health … all those things go into it. It’s an individual-by-individual basis. That will be interesting discussions over the next few weeks.

“You obviously know how Mike feels about (whether the team needs to get younger). He doesn’t place a lot on age. It’s just about productivity. Maybe some guys who haven’t played a ton of football that are a little bit older. It just goes to the health of the body and how well they’re playing on the field, more so than just the age. But obviously, the older players are, there’s generally higher risk of injury, salaries generally are higher, so all of that will go into our decision.”


Walters, McManus and Goveia have been at this for 10 years now with the Blue Bombers and their collaboration has delivered quality Canadians through the draft, outstanding Americans via scouting and some big-time plays in free agency.

Walters on the importance of the two to the organization:

“I mean, we go back forever. I said it at Grey Cup, when I thought I was getting the job, I called Danny, I called Ted, and got everybody on board. Those guys work their tails off and they’ve been doing this for a long time and they’re good and know the types of players that Mike wants. It’s critical now with more challenges getting players up here that we’ve got a good group that can be down there finding American players. They’re the kind of behind-the-scenes guys that make everything move around here in regards of the talent that comes through.”