Buck Pierce has been through this before. Job offers have come from other organizations and there is always a certain appeal to picking up and starting over somewhere new with different challenges.
Still, as every new opportunity arose, Pierce has also come to further appreciate what he has here in Winnipeg with the Blue Bombers.
And that’s why he’s decided to remain as the club’s offensive coordinator after pulling his name from consideration for the Saskatchewan Roughriders head coaching vacancy this week.
“First of all, it was a great experience, a great opportunity,” began Pierce in a conversation with bluebombers.com. “The Riders have good people there. They have great facilities. They’re building something good, and they want to build it the right way, which was very noticeable when I was there.
“It all comes back to family for me, first and foremost, and the people I’m around all the time. It’s about the situation I have here with the people I get to work with every day – the players, the coaching staff and what we’ve built. I want to be part of continuing to build that.”
Pierce’s roots in Winnipeg run deep into the ground now after all these years in Manitoba. He first came to the club as its starting quarterback during free agency in 2010 and endeared himself to the fan base with his gritty play as he battled through a series of injuries. He retired in 2014 and three days later, was named the Blue Bombers running backs coach.
The 2024 season will be his 10th on the coaching staff and fourth as offensive coordinator, and the statistics speak volumes for the work he’s done. The Blue Bombers offence ranked first in 2023 in offensive points (31.7), offensive touchdowns (62), net offence per game (414.7), rushing yards per game (139.1) second in passing yards per game (292.4) and passing efficiency (116.2) while finishing first in the West Division at 14-4 and advancing to a fourth straight Grey Cup.
We all know what happened next, with the Blue Bombers surrendering the latest game-winning TD in Grey Cup history in a loss to Montreal.
“The best word to describe how we’re all feeing right now is ‘gutted,’” he said. “We’re still trying to process everything. We all process things in different ways. I’m disappointed. I do think it’s important now to step back and take a deep breath and then look at it and get after it again.”
Pierce has immense respect across the Canadian Football League and that’s why – beyond the numbers his offences have posted – his name is linked to every head coaching opportunity.
Still, there’s a pull that has kept him in Winnipeg that goes beyond the walls of the Blue Bombers offices. His family has been through a lot and the support they’ve received from the club, from family and friends is immeasurable.
“Sometimes it’s about more than the job,” he said. “It’s with every profession, but especially in the coaching world, where having some stability and having resources like your family are extremely important. I put those things over everything. That’s the No. 1 priority for me. Always has been, always will be. It’s about doing what’s best for my family and making sure I provide for them the right way and also being present, being able to be around my kids and do the things I need to do as a father and a husband. That’s really what it comes down to for me.
“We have such a great set-up here with all the pieces in place to continue to be extremely successful. We do the things the right way. I’m just really grateful I’ve been able to do it right here.
“The amount of support we’ve got – not just for me wanting to stay, but from players, support staff and fans who wanted to support me in whatever I decision I made or whatever happened – is what I’ve really grown to love about this team and this organization and this city. They support each other and they’ve always supported me since I’ve been here.
“I feel honoured and extremely humbled to be in that situation to have been a part of this organization for as long as I have.”
Pierce exhaled audibly here and — given what’s happened over the last 12 days or so with the Grey Cup loss followed by his discussions with the Roughriders – he’s had a lot on his plate professionally.
Again, though, there’s comfort in the familiarity of routine, too, and when he spoke to us he was about to settle into some work with a fresh cup of coffee after dropping his kids off at school.
No doubt other head coaching opportunities will present themselves down the road. Right now, though, he’s good with where’s at.
“I keep going back and forth… do I want to be a head coach? Absolutely,” Pierce said. “Do I think I can be a head coach? Absolutely. But I also got into coaching to be around the game and help players achieve what they want to achieve. With that, I’ve never felt I had to take that next step at a certain point. I’ve always felt that if you’re happy doing what you’re doing, why mess with it? That’s where I am.
“I understand a lot of people think, ‘Hey, you’ve got to be a head coach. You have these opportunities’ and all these things. I’m extremely happy with everything I’m doing. Like I said, I love the people I work with and if you continue to work hard, those other opportunities will come.
“I don’t feel the need to always be looking for the next step in my career. I’ll continue to focus on my job, improve, get better on offence, and help us win championships.”