Buck Pierce understands Riders fans’ interest in him being head coach candidate

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Buck Pierce is a wanted man by Saskatchewan Roughriders fans.

The Riders have a head coach opening and if the Green and White could take him away from their prairie rivals, it would be a win-win. Snag an up-and-coming bench boss — who has developed under Mike O’Shea — while also forcing the Blue Bombers to find a new offensive coordinator.

“That’s more outside noise. I’m in Winnipeg right now and excited about the Grey Cup. I’m very focused on what I’m doing,” Pierce said when asked about the vacant job in Saskatchewan.

“I understand the interest. It comes with the territory, the success. We’ve worked extremely hard to have the success we’ve had and consistently playing at that level.”

The 42-year-old was referring to the Bombers earning their way to four straight Grey Cup games, winning back-to-back in 2019 and 2021 while aiming for a third title in four years Sunday in Hamilton. The former CFL quarterback started his coaching career in 2014 with Winnipeg and he’s been calling offensive plays for the last three seasons.

“I didn’t get into coaching to climb the ranks as fast as possible and be a head coach. My goal was to learn, teach and continue to grow as a coach. That’s a process that I’ve enjoyed. I’ve been able to do it in Winnipeg around a great group of people for a number of years,” Pierce said.

“Have I thought about being a head coach? Absolutely. Has it ever been a priority for me that I have to do? No. I’ve had those conversations with my family multiple times. I think you know when you know. It’s never going to be perfect. If you decide to go that route, you’re all in at that point.”

Pierce has coached Zach Collaros for his entire time in the Manitoba capital. He’s helped the two-time CFL Most Outstanding Player have the best years of his career, with a balanced offence that attacks defences in a variety of ways.

“He’s easy to follow, great role model, always goes above and beyond with his work ethic and his commitment to the team. I’ve always said about Buck, the ways it’s easy to work with him are because of his communication and openness. People are drawn to him, which makes a difference. Whatever attention he’s garnered is well-deserved,” Collaros said.

Pierce and Collaros teamed up to beat the Roughriders in the 2019 and 2021 West Finals. Meanwhile, Collaros spent parts of two seasons in Saskatchewan and knows what it’s like to play in a football-focused province with a boisterous fanbase known as Rider Nation.

“I think it’s something that he can handle, he’s an easygoing guy. You guys call it the fishbowl, you want that attention, you want fans to be excited to come to the games, you want high expectations. I don’t think anybody wants to be in a market where there are no expectations at all. If something like that were to occur, he’d be well-suited,” Collaros said.

“As professional athletes, all guys want is someone who can help them. Teach them the game and help their career, I know that’s something Buck can do.”

When head coach opportunities arise, Pierce and his family have discussions. The Hutchinson, Kan. native has turned down opportunities for interviews in the past, although he’s not necessarily looking for the perfect situation.

“You don’t get into this profession for money or recognition. You get in it for process, the game, individuals that you work with,” Pierce explained. “Is it intriguing on a competition level? On a challenge level? Absolutely.”

Perhaps his next challenge could be to make the Riders a playoff team again.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.