December 13, 2022

Tait: A great day in Bomber history

Steven Hiscock/

Let’s open by painting a picture of a scene from the press room in the basement of IG Field on Friday.

There were Mike O’Shea and Wade Miller sitting side-by-side for a media availability on the three-year contract extension for the head coach, officially announced Thursday.

During a 25-minute session Miller – the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ President & CEO – and O’Shea occasionally took turns stiff-arming questions about ‘legacy’ and the team’s transformation into a Canadian Football League flagship franchise straight to the ground.

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Some of that bluntness undoubtedly comes from the still-lingering sting of the Grey Cup loss to the Toronto Argonauts last month. But much of it also comes from the simple-yet-effective approach the two men take to their profession. And spending even a nanosecond thinking about legacy, about patting themselves on the back or seeking outside validation doesn’t get today’s to-do list done.

“You talk about legacy, and I’ve had this conversation with a few guys that just don’t happen to be on our team,” O’Shea said Friday. “There are guys that spend their careers worrying about their legacy. I think that’s ass-backwards. You work hard every day and then somewhere down the road somebody else tells you what that is.

“I tend to take people to task in this room on word choice a lot of times – the guys that are here regularly will shake their heads and laugh. I’m not trying to be that way all the time, but I have a hard time with while you have a job to do dividing your time, changing your focus to worry about something like that. Somebody else decides that. The only thing you can decide is how hard you’re going to work every day and the decisions you make that day.”

“You work every day, and you don’t worry about what others are going to say about you in the future,” Miller added. “It’s hard work every single day and that’s the way this organization’s been built on and off the field, and that’s the culture we have here and that’s the work ethic that we have, and we focus on today and what we can do to win championships, make memories and fill our stadium full of people. So that’s our purpose every single day.”

All of this isn’t to suggest O’Shea and Miller aren’t thrilled to keep this association going. Miller opened with ‘it’s a great day in Bomber history’ and of that there is no doubt.

By the time his new contract expires three years from now, O’Shea will almost certainly have become the franchise’s all-time coaching wins leader – he is currently third with 82, behind only Cal Murphy (86) and Bud Grant (102) – and already has led the club to two championships.

“I don’t think we’re done yet,” said O’Shea, after deflecting the idea of legacy and when asked about what’s left to accomplish. “I think that the group that we have here, now there’s always additions and subtractions every single year, it’s pro sport, but the group we’ve assembled, the group that’s all thinking the same way, believe that we’ve got a lot of legs left in this so it would be fun to be a part of.”

All of this perfectly represents the growth in the franchise since Miller, general manager Kyle Walters and O’Shea have overseen since the trio – dubbed ‘The Canadian Mafia’ by Calgary Stampeders coach Dave Dickenson – began working together nine years ago.


To that end, while Miller referred to this announcement as a ‘great day in Bomber history,’ it should be said that one of the most impactful days was O’Shea’s hire on December 4, 2013. And even more so, the interview that preceded it.

It’s a story that has been told before, but now needs revisiting.

After the 2013 season – one in which the Blue Bombers had finished with a 3-15 record – Miller and Walters began interviewing head-coaching candidates. O’Shea, then the special teams coordinator with the Toronto Argonauts and just four years into his coaching career, had been recommended by Walters, both University of Guelph products.

The three of them – O’Shea, Walters and Miller – had all also played in the league against each other. That history – some of it cordial, but much of it built on years of scrapping for every yard and their uber-competitive personalities – seemed to set the tone for their first interview at a hotel near Pearson International Airport in Toronto.

“We had a list of candidates and that was one that Kyle had brought forward,” Miller recalled. “We opened a door in the Toronto airport – I’m going to tell the story, (O’Shea) – we opened the door for the interview, and he said should we put on some facemasks for this meeting. And then it started from there.”

“The three of us had a very good conversation. Within the first 15 minutes you knew. You knew this was the person that was going to come and be the leader of this team for a long time. That was very evident, very quickly. He didn’t show up with some PowerPoint presentation and talk about leadership. He is a leader. So, that’s where it started.”

What won Miller and Walters over then in the moment has certainly played out over the last few years, even if the results weren’t instant. There’s no flash with O’Shea – PowerPoints? Yeah, right – but there is a constant team-first blueprint that works. As Adam Bighill said earlier this week, O’Shea and his staff have found ‘a winning formula.’

“You don’t have to look far to his career as a player to see what he had been doing in coaching with the Argos at the time, and you know he’s a leader of leaders, he’s a leader of men,” said Miller when asked how O’Shea won him over. “Those are the things you’re looking for. And somebody who is going to work through and has a belief in themselves that is different than most people you will ever come across. And a belief in a process and how things will get done and will stick to that no matter what. And there aren’t many that will do that.”

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