There is little doubt Mike O’Shea will be a head coach in the Canadian Football League soon, it just won’t be this season.
He is one of the most coveted young coaches in Canada and that showed when after only two seasons as an assistant to Jim Barker with the Argos, O’Shea was interviewed for head coaching vacancies in Saskatchewan and Hamilton this off-season.
There was also a suggestion that O’Shea was on a short list to join the coaching staff of the Montreal Alouettes. On Thursday, however, the 41-year-old former CFL all-star re-signed with the Argos as special teams coordinator.
While he was flattered to be considered a candidate for a head coaching job, O’Shea said he never really thought that it was his time, yet.
“Being a head coach at this stage of my career is not No. 1 on my list,” he said. “But I enjoyed the process (of meeting with team bosses).”
O’Shea said his work as an assistant to Barker made people take notice of him and that, he said, was nice.
“What happens when you have a little bit of success, teams who need (a coach) do interviews to satisfy their knowledge of people that are around,” he said. “Then you get a couple of phone calls.
“And when you get phone calls like that you certainly have to go explore those opportunities. But to say that I have always had (head coaching) on my list is probably untrue.
“(Interviewing) was a great experience. It is a good opportunity to get to know some people around the league and obviously what I have learned is that I’ve got a lot to learn.”
So what drives this well respected former player and now coach?
“Winning the Grey Cup has always been my goal and if that means winning a Grey Cup as a head coach or a special teams coordinator or in whatever other capacity a team would have me then that is what is important to me.”
O’Shea said the decision to rejoin the Argos really was an easy one for him to make, after all he has spent 14 of his 17 years in the CFL with the Double Blue.
“You play for 12 years, coach for another two and there is a real sense of familiarity,” he said. “It feels like home.”
There were other factors, as well, that motivated him to stay in Toronto and the big payoff was that the centennial Grey Cup game will be played at the Roger Centre in November and he believes the Argos are loading up to be the Eastern representative when the coin is tossed to start that game.
“We have the 100th Grey Cup in Toronto coming; we have a tremendous threat at quarterback and the coaching staff is young and hungry,” he said. “The franchise is committed to making a run at the Grey Cup. That is what I see.
“And I am just as committed and we are going to work hard as a staff. We are going to improve on special teams.
We need to. The last two seasons I have been coaching we have not won a Grey Cup. And that is what you play for.” O’Shea said he is also looking forward to working with new head coach Scott Milanovich.
He said Milanovich was aware he was talking to other CFL teams about opportunities.
“He was very respectful of that process,” O’Shea said. “He afforded me a lot of time. He is a young guy; he’s got a lot of energy; he has been around a winning organization and he is a student of the game.
“I am excited to be working with him.”
O’Shea said he wants to learn from Milanovich what it takes to be the top guy on the sidelines. And he plans to do a couple of coaching clinics with the new boss before the season starts.
“I am sure now that I have signed we are going to talk more football,” he said.
Make no mistake, O’Shea would like to be a head coach some day.
Had he waited until closer to the start of the new season to ink his deal with the Argos there might have even been more interest in him.
“(But) I signed with the Argos because this was a great opportunity for me,” he said. “I guess if you wanted to keep (negotiating) right through to the start of the season there might have been other opportunities.”
In the meantime he will play the part of the student and pay attention to all aspects of coaching, not just his role with the special teams.
“I have always believed that as a player, as a coach, people will ask you questions and I am always excited to help out or to talk football on any side of the ball,” he said.
And you never know, another shot at a head coaching job could come at any time.
“In the coaching ranks there is always a little bit of turnover,” he said.
O’SHEA CAN STILL PLAY
Just in case the whole coaching thing doesn’t work out for Mike O’Shea, the Argos’ special teams coordinator still has his old No. 50 uniform ready.
Although he quit his active playing career at the end of the 2009 season O’Shea never did get around to filing his official retirement papers with the Canadian Football League office.
And on Thursday he said that Argos general manager Jim Barker did offer him a playing contract for the 2012 season.
“He told me he’d pay me half what I was offered to be special teams coordinator, if I wanted to come back to play,” O’Shea said.
“I told him ‘Great, but only if I can play one-quarter of what I did before.’”
But O’Shea admitted that as far as he is concerned his playing days are over.