March 10, 2024

O’Shea: ‘You have to grow or you’re going to be left behind’

Chris Tanouye/

TORONTO — One doesn’t simply coach his team into four straight Grey Cup appearances by doing the same things over and over.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea has been around long enough to know that the game of football is constantly changing and it is up to coaches and players to keep up with it.

“You have to grow or you’re going to be left behind,” said O’Shea in an interview with Donnovan Bennett and Henoc Muamba on this week’s edition of The Waggle Podcast.

That doesn’t mean doing everything different, especially when your team has gone 84-38 since 2016 with three straight West Division first place finishes and four consecutive trips to the Grey Cup.

“You’ve been in this role (as head coach) and you better figure out ways to grow and you better adapt to the group you have in the building that year.

“I don’t know that you need to change some of the things that you believe in. If they’re core principles that you believe are important to help your team win you can keep hitting those points incessantly.”

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A challenge that can stem from a continued period of success like that is focus. Often times teams that have reached the highest point in their sports struggle to keep the same drive and hunger that got them there in the first place.

The problem for these Blue Bombers is quite the opposite, though.

“In terms of celebrating success and staying focused that has been an interesting part,” said O’Shea. “You realize after a certain amount of time that with a good group in the locker room and on the field we might not be celebrating the success as much as you should.

“The locker room is full of pros that really understand when it’s time go get back to work. Those type of players have to be reminded it’s ok to let loose after a win because they are always going to get back to work, they are always trying to get better so the hard part is reminding them ‘hey let’s go, let’s have some fun’.”

For the Bombers to continue to excel on both sides of the ball, O’Shea and his staff have had to find ways to innovate schematically in order to stay ahead of the game.

“We play an exciting brand of football that gets increasingly complex as time goes on. There are always guys trying to figure out more and more ways to mess with defences and put them in binds. It’s certainly miles and miles away from when I played just the intricacies of offences right now.”


That exciting brand of football was again successful in 2023 when Winnipeg finished first in net yards per game (414.4) and opponent net yards per game (298.8).

One thing that remains a constant despite the changes in scheme is the toughness required to execute them with the excellence necessary to win in the CFL.

“It’s a physical game so you’ve got to stock your room with tough people. I think we do a good job at that.”

The Bombers have made sure they would retain some of that toughness by extending players like running back Brady Oliveira, wide receiver Dalton Schoen and defensive lineman Willie Jefferson ahead of the free agency period in February. Those names – alongside star quarterback Zach Collaros – should keep the Bombers in contention for a fifth straight championship berth.

Despite all the accolades, O’Shea is not concerned – yet – with singling out any of his past championship runs. Asked which one stands out the most, the head coach was emphatic.

“The next one.”

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