‘I want Mike O’Shea in the NFL’: former Atlanta Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff says teams ‘interested’ in Bombers’ head coach

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Former NFL general manager Thomas Dimitroff believes franchises south of the border should be taking a long look at Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ head coach Mike O’Shea during hiring cycles.

“I’ll tell you this, and maybe this isn’t the right thing to say, I want Mike O’Shea in the NFL,” Dimitroff told podcaster Bob Marjanovich during Super Bowl week. “I don’t know where you guys are with him — he’s a Guelph Gryphon. I think Mike O’Shea is a fantastic football coach and I would love to see him one day come down here and be a d-coordinator, if not more.”

O’Shea was hired as Winnipeg’s head coach ahead of the 2014 campaign, having previously served as special teams coordinator with the Toronto Argonauts for four seasons. After initially struggling in his first two years with the Bombers, the 53-year-old has posted double-digit victories in seven consecutive seasons and advanced to each of the last four Grey Cups, winning back-to-back championships in 2019 and 2021.

The two-time CFL Coach of the Year has posted a 96-62 win-loss record, six wins shy of the 102 franchise record set by Pro Football Hall of Famer Bud Grant.

Dimitroff, CEO of the analytics company Sumer Sports, served as general manager of the Atlanta Falcon from 2008 to 2020, helping to lead the team to a berth in Super Bowl LI, eventually losing to New England and his mentor Bill Belichick. He previously spent 10 years as a scout under Belichick with the Patriots and Cleveland Browns, learning what makes a top-tier NFL coach.

He sees those attributes in O’Shea and hasn’t been shy about letting others know about it.

“I’ve asked around interestingly enough, not that I’m Mike O’Shea’s agent. I’ve asked a number of my GMs, ‘Would you, in fact, interview a guy like Mike O’Shea having his history being in the league?'” he admitted. “I said, ‘You have a dude that is a through and through leader, player guy, been there, has done great things on the field as a player and as a coach.’ I thought there was a really good response like, ‘Yes, if his situation came up, there would be an interview for that.'”

Dimitroff and O’Shea go way back, playing on the same defence for two years at the University of Guelph. Dimitroff graduated following the 1990 season and broke into pro football as a scout with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. O’Shea would play two more university seasons and was selected in the first round of the 1993 CFL Draft, kicking off a 16-year professional career with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Toronto Argonauts.

The Canadian linebacker retired in 2008 as the second-leading tackler in CFL history with 1,154, earning four all-star selections, a Most Outstanding Rookie award in 1993 and a Most Outstanding Canadian award in 1999. Despite being enshrined in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2017, the North Bay, Ont. native only received one NFL look during his career, attending training camp with the Detroit Lions. That opportunity came while Dimitroff was employed as an area scout with the franchise.

After advocating for his fellow Gryphon back then, the 57-year-old Canadian-raised executive is still pounding the table for him now. It will take overcoming the stigma that is associated with moving from three-down football to the NFL.

“I think there are people that are interested,” Dimitroff insisted. “They just know that (he’s) gonna have to come down here and learn the system more.”

O’Shea has two years remaining on his contract with the Bombers and has shown little interest in climbing the ladder. However, a real NFL opportunity would carry with it financial rewards that even he would have difficulty turning down.

The Blue Bombers open the 2024 regular season by hosting the Grey Cup champion Montreal Alouettes at Princess Auto Stadium on Thursday, June 6. The NFL season wraps up on Sunday, February 11 when the San Francisco 49ers take on the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII.