By Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press
Mike O’Shea isn’t letting his contract status enter his thought process as his Winnipeg Blue Bombers prepare to earn a third straight Grey Cup championship.
O’Shea, the CFL’s longest-tenured head coach, is in the final year of his deal with Winnipeg. But the 52-year-old native of North Bay, Ont., suggested Wednesday at the Grey Cup coaches conference that people shouldn’t try reading anything into it.
“If you look at the history, I always play out my contracts and figure it out at the end of the year,” O’Shea told reporters. “I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it, to tell you the truth.”
O’Shea’s approach is atypical in a profession where most aspire for the security of a long-term deal.
“I just believe in the organization and believe in myself and the team,” he said. “It’s not hard to do.”
O’Shea said even with his uncertain contract status, he remains committed to the Bombers beyond this season.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I love the Bombers, I love the city.”
Winnipeg will face the Toronto Argonauts in the Grey Cup game Sunday at Mosaic Stadium. The Bombers won CFL championships in 2019 and ’21.
O’Shea is completing his eighth season as Winnipeg’s head coach, having complied an 82-58 regular-season record. The Bombers have finished atop the West Division the last two campaigns and won Grey Cups each time.
Winnipeg has a 7-3 playoff record under O’Shea but is 6-0 since 2019, including the two Grey Cup championships. The franchise has recorded double-digit wins in each of its last six seasons, including a franchise-record 15 regular-season victories this year.
“If I’m asking our players to stay in the moment and stay focused on the very important task at hand, I don’t waste a lot of time during the season worrying about after the season,” O’Shea said. “We can fix that or figure it out after.
“I’d imagine some people would think it’s short-sighted, but I’ve also always believed contracts are really about what you’re going to do going forward. It’s not about what you did in the past. Once again, judging by my answer you can tell I don’t even put a lot of thought in that.”
The six-foot-three, 228-pound O’Shea had a stellar 16-year CFL career as a linebacker with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (1993-95, 2000) and Toronto (1996-99, 2001-08). He won three Grey Cups as an Argo (1996-97, ’04) and in 271 regular-season games accumulated 1,151 tackles — the most ever by a Canadian and second in league history.
O’Shea was the CFL’s top rookie in 1993 and its outstanding Canadian six years later. An all-time Argo, O’Shea was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2017.
Success has followed O’Shea into the coaching ranks. He added a fourth Grey Cup ring in 2012 as Toronto’s special-teams co-ordinator before joining the Bombers. O’Shea captured the Annis Stukus Trophy as the CFL’s top coach last season and is a finalist for the honour again this year with Toronto’s Ryan Dinwiddie.
“I’m not in that organization, I don’t know the situation with Mike,” Dinwiddie said when asked about O’Shea’s situation. “But I’m sure Mike feels really good about where he’s at . . . they have great relationships and this is going to be a done deal at some stage.
“Me personally, being a young coach I’d want to have a few years left because I’m not as established as Mike.”