‘I don’t think it even mattered’: Mike O’Shea deems details of comeback meaningless, as Bombers never doubted Grey Cup victory

Photo courtesy: Winnipeg Blue Bombers

“Well, that game didn’t feel wire-to-wire…”

As Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea came to the podium Sunday night after his team’s thrilling, come-from-behind overtime victory in the 108th Grey Cup, the good-natured sarcasm in his voice was evident.

Defined by it’s defensive play in the early going, the championship rematch between the Bombers and the hometown Hamilton Tiger-Cats quickly morphed into an instant classic. Down 22-10 with 12:10 remaining, Winnipeg battled back to take a slim lead with two minutes left, then finished the deal after the Tabbies forced an extra frame.

It was a finish as exciting as they come, the very definition of wire-to-wire, but beneath O’Shea’s smirk, there was a grain of truth.

While everyone watching was biting their nails, the Bombers never doubted the end result.

“I don’t think there was one doubter on the bench. If there was, we wouldn’t win because you need everybody to believe,” O’Shea explained.

“Jake Thomas came out at half and said ‘we got this.’ I don’t think it even mattered what happened from the start of the half till the end. I don’t think it even mattered. We were gonna figure out a way to do it.”

Figure it out they did, securing the franchise’s first Grey Cup repeat since 1962, but it took more than just individual belief. Several Bombers struggled in the early going, namely quarterback Zach Collaros and receiver Nic Demski. Collaros tossed a pair of costly interceptions, while Demski posted negative yardage without any space in the end-around or screen game.

The pair turned it around late and were named the game’s Most Valuable Player and Most Valuable Canadian respectively, something that would not have been possible without Winnipeg’s unique team unity.

“I think just with the relationships they’ve developedover time, there’s a great amount of trust and it goes even deeper than that,” O’Shea commented. “There’s never even the thought of not believing in a teammate or trusting that someone’s gonna have your back or someone’s gonna be able to make a play to figure it out. There’s just none of that vocal stuff going on on the sidelines, it’s all just reassuring conversation.”

O’Shea pins that on veteran players, while those same athletes chanting his name in the locker room might attribute that triumphant team culture elsewhere. Nevertheless, the 2021 CFL Coach of the Year could not have been prouder.

“It’s very pleasing in that regard,” he admitted. “When you hear a ton of chatter, sometimes you maybe feel that a couple guys don’t really believe what they’re saying, but I think these guys have such great understanding of each other and such great relationships that they know they’re gonna pull it out or give it, certainly, a good go of it.”

From sarcasm to understatement, the even-keel O’Shea is never near the rollercoaster excitement value of the game’s he coaches. In the end, his biggest smile came when asked how he himself was feeling.

“I feel like getting down and hanging out with my team.”

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.