The Winnipeg Blue Bombers hired Mike O’Shea following a period of high turnover at the head coaching position. Seven different men served as the head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the 1990s; six more served in the ten years prior to O’Shea’s hiring. Constant change at the head coaching spot makes it impossible for a team to establish a winning culture — it is a result (and cause) of habitual organizational failure.
Habitual failure was the name of the game prior to O’Shea’s arrival in Winnipeg. Now, with things looking up in the ‘Peg, there’s no reason to believe a change at the coaching position is imminent.
O’Shea took over as the Bombers’ head coach in December of 2013 and has since led the team through four regular seasons. Though the club posted disappointing records in O’Shea’s first two years at the helm (2014, 7-11; 2015, 5-13), the blue and gold have posted 23 regular season victories over the past two seasons (2016, 11-7; 2017, 12-6), the second-most of any CFL team over that span.
O’Shea now sits tied with Mike Riley at fifth all-time in regular season games coached with the Bombers at 72.
Riley, 64, won two Grey Cups in Winnipeg (1988, 1990) before departing for the San Antonio Riders of the now-defunct World League of American Football. Though he’s completed three-year head coaching stints with both the San Diego Chargers (1999-2001) and Nebraska (2015-2017), Riley’s spent most of the past two decades at Oregon State (1997-1998; 2003-2014; 2018-present).
The four men ahead of O’Shea are Ray Jauch (80; 1978-1982), Dave Ritchie (97; 1999-2004), Cal Murphy (138; 1983-1986, 1993-1996), and Bud Grant (144; 1958-1966).
Jauch, 80, came to Winnipeg following a seven-year stint as the head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos during which he captured one Grey Cup (1975). Jauch posted a 45-35 record during his tenure in Winnipeg, though his club never made it past the dynasty-era Eskimos in the playoffs.
Ritchie, 79, joined the Bombers following head coaching stints in B.C. (1993-1995) and Montreal (1997-1998). Ritchie led the club back to respectability following two disastrous years under Jeff Reinebold, eventually reaching (though not winning) a Grey Cup in 2001. Ritchie was fired partway through the 2004 season following a disappointing 2-5 start to the season.
Murphy led the Bombers to a 99-80-3 record over eight seasons as the club’s head coach. Winnipeg never missed the playoffs under Murphy and reached two Grey Cups, winning in 1984. Murphy also won two Grey Cups as the club’s general manager, a role he held during and between his two head coaching stints. Murphy, a native of Winnipeg, passed away in 2012 at the age of 79.
Grant, 90, won four Grey Cups in Winnipeg during his ten-year stint as the team’s head coach. Grant left Winnipeg in 1967 to become the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings where he posted a 158-95-6 record in almost two decades with the team. Though Grant led the Vikings to four Super Bowls, his club failed to win one. A statue of Grant now resides outside of Investors Group Field.
O’Shea is under contract with the Bombers through 2019. Assuming he remains in Winnipeg through the length of that deal, O’Shea would sit top-three in club history with 108 regular season games coached.
The next step for O’Shea will be having his club’s regular season success pour over into the post-season. O’Shea has yet to win a playoff game as a CFL head coach, something each of his aforementioned predecessors accomplished numerous times (Jauch, 2; Ritchie, 3; Riley, 6; Murphy, 7; Grant, 15).