‘That’s ass-backwards’: Bombers’ head coach Mike O’Shea not concerned with his legacy

Photo courtesy: Thomas Skrlj/CFL

As the first head coach since Bud Grant to lead the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to three-straight Grey Cup appearances, Mike O’Shea has built quite the legacy for himself in the Manitoba capital.

But where he’ll eventually be remembered among the league’s best bench bosses isn’t something he spends time thinking about. He claims he never thinks about what his legacy might be in Bomberland, choosing instead to focus solely on the present.

“You talk about legacy and I’ve had this conversation with a few guys that don’t happen to be on our team and there’s guys that spend their careers worrying about their legacy,” the two-time coach of the year said. “I think that’s ass backwards.”

The 52-year-old was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame as a player in 2017 and is in the process of building a coaching résumé that would rival any of the coaches already enshrined. He sits tied for 14th all-time in wins by a CFL head coach and trails only Grant and Cal Murphy for Winnipeg’s all-time record. Now under contract with the team through 2025, it seems safe to assume at O’Shea will move up the list.

Since arriving in Winnipeg as head coach in 2014, O’Shea has guided the Bombers to six seasons with 10-plus wins, six playoff appearances, three Grey Cup berths, and two Grey Cup championships. Winnipeg’s championship victory in 2019 broke the club’s 29-year Grey Cup drought, the league’s longest active streak at the time.

It hasn’t always been easy, though, as O’Shea’s tenure in Winnipeg got off to a rocky start as the team missed the playoff his first two seasons, won just 12 games over that span, and did not record a playoff victory until his fifth season on the job.

Lasting as long as he did despite the lack of early success is something O’Shea doesn’t take for granted.

“I was fortunate to survive the first couple years,” the league’s longest-tenured coach said. “I’m thankful it’s been this long a ride.”

Since 2019, however, no one has been more successful than O’Shea and his team. The Bombers won two of the last three Grey Cups, made the championship game the last three seasons and sports a league-best 37-13 record over that time, including a franchise-best 15-3 mark in 2022.

Regardless of the accolades or records he accumulates over his coaching career, O’Shea doesn’t believe it’s up to him to decide what his legacy will be.

“Somewhere down the road, someone else tells you what that is,” he said. “I have a hard time with, while you’ve got a job to do, dividing your time and changing your focus to worry about something like that that somebody else decides later on. The only thing you can decide is how hard you’re gonna work that day, the decisions that you make that day.”

“I don’t have time to be prideful — certainly don’t want to be complacent. No time to look back now,” he said. “I’m not going to spend a lot of time thinking about that.”

Josh Smith has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.