Mike O’Shea doesn’t think anyone other than Zach Collaros could have rallied Bombers in 2019

Photo courtesy: CFL

Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ head coach Mike O’Shea told the media that he and general manager Kyle Walters discussed bringing in a number of different quarterbacks at the CFL trade deadline in October 2019, but Zach Collaros was the only one he believes could have been successful on such a short timeline in Winnipeg.

“I don’t think there was another guy that could come in and do that,” said O’Shea on Wednesday. “I’m not sure there was another guy that could fit in that seamlessly and get it done. So from the second he walked in it was obvious that he could and that’s the only reason why you wouldn’t have brought another guy in. It just wouldn’t have worked like that.”

Collaros was acquired from the Toronto Argonauts along with a fifth-round draft pick in exchange for a third-round draft pick and a conditional first-round draft pick. The veteran was the starting quarterback of the Saskatchewan Roughriders to start the 2019 season, though an illegal hit to the head limited him to just one game in Riderville.

The 33-year-old started Winnipeg’s final regular season contest of the 2019 season before leading them on a three-game postseason run that culminated in a Grey Cup title. He completed 69.1 percent of his passes for 851 yards, four touchdowns, and one interceptions over that span, winning a championship less than seven weeks after being traded to the Blue Bombers.

“Once you get in a room with him as we were back then it’s not surprising that he’s at this level,” said O’Shea. “(He’s) ultra-competitive, an easy guy to follow, a good leader and you know something that would get said around by retired guys is he’s one of us, he just is. You’re just drawn to him and we’re so pleased that he’s on our team.”

Photo courtesy: Kevin Sousa/CFL

Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ head coach Orlondo Steinauer overlapped with Collaros in Toronto when he first entered the CFL as a rookie quarterback. The Argos were loaded at the position — Ricky Ray, Trevor Harris, and Jarious Jackson were also under contract — but Collaros never let that bother him.

“He was named basically the fourth quarterback in 2012, but I just remember going by the weight room at the University of Toronto and Mississauga and there’s this quarterback in there power cleaning and that just kind of sums up Zach. He’s a worker. It didn’t matter what role he was going to have that year. He knew he wasn’t (the starter),” said Steinauer.

“It didn’t even bother him. And so when he got his opportunity there was no doubt in my mind, he already had the physical tools. He bought his time and he’s here today so no surprise, he’s ultra-competitive when he was around here and obviously his physical still speak for themselves.”

The 2021 season was a challenging one for players and staff as they were forced to adhere to strict health and safety protocols to mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19. Winnipeg made it look easy — they won ten of their first eleven games to clinch first place in the West Division — and O’Shea credits his players for making it through.

“Obviously we ended up in a different spot in the standings but I think one of the biggest challenges I know for our team, and I would imagine for other teams too, is just with adherence to all the protocols. It was just really tough to figure out how to facilitate the guys creating that team that you need at this time of year,” said O’Shea.

“The players are so resilient, they find ways and it ends up working out in the end, but that was certainly on the front of my mind in the off-season or the extended off-season and through training camp and through the season is you know how are we going to get them to come together the way they need to.”