Bombers reward O'Shea, Walters with new deals
The Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers have kept their most important potential free agent off the open market.
The CFL club kicked off Friday by announcing the signing of head coach Mike O’Shea to a new, three-year contract. Financial terms of the deal were not released.
The Bombers also announced a three-year contract extension for GM Kyle Walters, who still had one year left on his deal.
Like O’Shea, Walters has been with Winnipeg for six years.
The signings keep together the main architects of a team that’s compiled a 44-28 mark over the last four regular seasons, second only to Calgary over that span.
“We’re thrilled to have Kyle and Mike remain at the helm of our football team for the next few seasons,” CEO Wade Miller said in a statement. “Continuity in our football operations department is critical as Kyle and Mike continue to build a strong culture in and around our locker room.”
O’Shea overcame some rough early seasons to guide the Bombers to the CFL playoffs in each of the last four years, culminating last month in the franchise’s first championship in 29 years.
His return was vital if the Bombers hoped to retain a good portion of their free agents.
“It’s well documented how I feel about Coach O’Shea,” one of them, quarterback Zach Collaros, told the Winnipeg Sun earlier this week. “Once that (O’Shea’s status) shakes out, I’m hoping that we’ll start a conversation up.”
The 49-year-old O’Shea is the longest-serving Winnipeg head coach since Cal Murphy, and third-longest in franchise history, behind Murphy and Bud Grant.
His career regular-season record is 56-52, No. 3 in franchise victories but well off the pace in winning percentage.
He is the CFL’s longest tenured head coach.
That O’Shea was even around to lead the Bombers on a championship run in 2019 – they became just the sixth team to claim the title after finishing in third place in their division – is a testament to the patience of Walters and Miller: the Bombers were 7-11 and 5-13 over his first two seasons.
“When Kyle, Mike and I began this journey in 2013, I stated that we would build a winning and sustainable organization,” Miller said in the statement. “Kyle and Mike have been the drivers of this success and have helped establish a championship formula.”
A former middle linebacker and Hall of Famer with Toronto and Hamilton, O’Shea showed that same patience with his players and coaching staff, sticking with people like defensive co-ordinator Richie Hall, despite poor results and plenty of public criticism.
Hall’s defence was dominant in road playoff wins in Calgary and Saskatchewan and in the 33-12 win over Hamilton in the 107th Grey Cup.
No. 1 quarterback Matt Nichols, too, had the loyalty of his head coach, although ironically it took a late-season trade with Toronto for Collaros to put the Bombers over the top this season.
The 30th head coach in Bombers history, this is O’Shea’s first head coaching job. He spent four previous seasons as the special-teams co-ordinator with the Argonauts.
He won three Grey Cups as a player, all with the Argos, and entered the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2017.
His commitment to the Bombers caps a week that’s seen three teams, Edmonton, Toronto and Ottawa, make head coaching changes, including the hiring of Paul LaPolice, O’Shea’s offensive co-ordinator the last four years, by the Redblacks.
Toronto was seen as a possible destination for O’Shea, had the Bombers not locked up his services.