Make no mistake about the Winnipeg Blue Bombers hiring Paul LaPolice: this is a statement that current Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea is on a short leash.
LaPolice makes his return to the CFL sidelines as the offensive coordinator for the Bombers in the 2016 after subsequently being fired by Winnipeg brass one year removed of a Grey Cup appearance in 2012.
Mike O’Shea is entering his third season with the Bombers as the bench boss, sporting a weak 12-24 record with the blue and gold. Maybe even more important, he’s seen zero post season action with a team that is still searching for its first Grey Cup since 1990. Despite beefing up the offensive line in an effort to protect the cement-footed Drew Willy, the Bombers were unable to keep their starting quarterback efficient and healthy.
O’Shea, to everyone’s surprise, is the only head coach from the CFL west division who is still employed by his 2015 club. That will come to an end shortly if the Bombers struggle early on in 2016.
Many believe that LaPolice’s departure from Winnipeg came prematurely, in the midst of the nightmare that was the Joe Mack regime. A coach can only do so much with the tools he’s given. Joe Mack was guilty of numerous things with the Bombers, but supplying LaPolice with quality players was not one of those issues.
Football will be interesting to watch in Winnipeg this year. Drew Willy will be healthy but still trying to prove he is in the elite category of CFL quarterbacking. LaPolice will be back in the league for the first time since 2012; will he be a competent and effective offensive coordinator, or will the incompetence he was often accused of as a head coach show through?
Meanwhile, O’Shea knows what the LaPolice signing means: his time is running out quickly. He needs a great start with the Bombers in a already competitive western division. It will be tough. B.C. will be looking to also turn things around with Buono at the helm. The Eskimos should be tough again this year, and they are the defending league champs. Calgary is always near the top of the western standings, and Saskatchewan is in full overhaul mode, so they will be much improved.
If O’Shea doesn’t have a strong start, we may see the former TSN analyst hold the coaches playbook before Labour day. And LaPolice has been to a Grey Cup as a head coach, O’Shea has not seen the playoffs. The ownership and fans will be watching closely.