Blue Bombers’ president Wade Miller non-committal regarding future of GM Kyle Walters

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It seems bizarre that a general manager with three consecutive Grey Cup appearances could be on the outs, but that’s the situation that appears to be unfolding in Winnipeg.

The Blue Bombers held a press conference on Friday after head coach Mike O’Shea officially signed a three-year contract extension to remain with the club through 2025. O’Shea’s two previous extensions were announced alongside new deals for general manager Kyle Walters, who was not in attendance on Friday. Walters is not under contract beyond 2023 and there are no negotiations currently taking place on a possible extension.

When asked if signing Walters to a new contract was the next priority on his to-do list, club president and CEO Wade Miller was non-committal.

“It’s looking at everything and keep moving forward,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do, it’s still in December and we’re gonna keep working towards next year and move forward.”

Winnipeg has had the same structure atop of their organization for almost a decade. General manager Kyle Walters, assistant general managers Ted Goveia and Danny McManus, and head coach Mike O’Shea have all been in their roles since December 2013, long before the CFL’s non-player football operations cap came into effect.

The cap, introduced following the 2018 season, limits the amount of money teams can spend on coaches, personnel people, scouts, and video and equipment staff. Conveniently, it does not pertain to team presidents, whose salaries remain uncapped while the earnings of those below them remain finite.

Teams have tried to lessen the impact of the cap by having members of their coaching staff perform multiple roles. Chris Jones is the head coach and general manager in Edmonton, while Orlondo Steinauer is the head coach and president of football operations in Hamilton. Other head coaches who perform multiple roles include Ryan Dinwiddie in Toronto and Rick Campbell in B.C.

Miller acknowledged this trend and suggested that it could also impact the way in which his team is structured moving forward.

“Things are changing how you’re going to work and look forward,” he said. “When you think of this group together, when you talk about Kyle, Ted, and Danny and Mike, they’ve been together a long time, and then our coaching staff as well. And you start to run up to the edge of that non-player football cap, which makes things real difficult in keeping everybody together, so you’re gonna see, I think, teams look at those things differently as you go forward and try and navigate through that.”

It seems unlikely that O’Shea is harbouring a secret desire to gain the title of general manager. He reportedly turned down an interview for the role of head coach and general manager with the Edmonton Elks last off-season, which would have been a great opportunity to secure more power within an organization. Even so, it’s pretty clear that some type of change is on the horizon in Bomberland.

The operations cap has been a source of criticism as it inhibits the league’s ability to recruit and develop coaches, which can negatively impact the on-field product. Miller is still a proponent of the cap even though it appears he believes it is adversely affecting his own organization.

“I understand why we need it,” he said. “I was supportive of when we did it as a league and definitely it’s going to impact teams that have tenure within their organizations and great, talented people. And that provides opportunities for them, but at the same time, it’s a challenge moving forward.”

Last week, Walters expressed his expectation that he and the team would sort things out once end-of-year duties were completed. The veteran general manager also indicated that he feels “good either way” about serving in his role in 2023 regardless of whether or not he signs a contract extension.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.