The Saskatchewan Roughriders have watched the rival Winnipeg Blue Bombers win two straight Grey Cups and are learning from their winning ways.
Both years the Bombers hoisted the big silver trophy, Winnipeg went through the Riders in the West Final. Each playoff tilt resulted in a one-score victory by the blue and gold who went on to earn the CFL championship in 2019 and 2021.
“It’d be foolish for us not to look at what they’ve done, how they’ve done it and not try to take some pointers from how they’ve been able to have success. It was gradual and now they’re at the point where they’ve been very good for the last couple years,” general manager Jeremy O’Day said.
During the first two full seasons Wade Miller was president, Kyle Walters general manager and Mike O’Shea head coach in Winnipeg, the Blue Bombers went 12-24 (33 percent win rate) and missed the post-season each year. In 2016 the Bombers started 1-4 which turned up the pressure, but a seven-game win streak helped Winnipeg finish 11-7, secure a playoff spot and take the heat off Walters and O’Shea.
“If you look back at Winnipeg in Mike and Kyle’s first few years, I felt there was a little bit of a push that they needed to see something. Wade and Kyle and Mike they just stayed the course, their board stayed the course and they slowly got better,” head coach Craig Dickenson said.
“I think that’s a lesson for all pro sports teams to look at and learn from. Everybody wants immediate success and the reality was Winnipeg was smart enough to realize you keep good people if they’re the people you believe in.”
Since 2016 the Blue Bombers have produced a 55-31 win-loss record (64 percent win rate) during the regular season with a 6-3 post-season mark and two Grey Cup wins. The Riders regime of O’Day and Dickenson has gone 22-10 (69 percent win rate) since being put in their current roles.
“It’s easier said than done, but you certainly would take a look at how they built their team and how they added pieces strategically to get them to the point where they are now. Every team would want to be in that situation where you’re winning championships and you are reloading versus having to restart all the time,” O’Day said.
“There’s a reason for it, they stuck with them, gave them what they needed and Wade and Kyle and Mike got the job done. You continue to believe in them, give them the resources to be successful and you see Winnipeg’s situation paid off. Patience, long-term vision and stability,” Dickenson said.
As Winnipeg goes for a three-peat Saskatchewan wants to stop the run, especially with Mosaic Stadium hosting the 109th Grey Cup in November. The Riders don’t want to see the Bombers hoist the trophy on their home turf.