Early re-signings point to defensive uncertainty in Winnipeg

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have been busy negotiating contract extensions with a number of veterans this winter, re-upping seven players long before February’s free agent deadline.

Offensive starters Stanley Bryant, Weston Dressler, Jermarcus Hardrick, Timothy Flanders, and Patrick Neufeld have officially re-signed with the Bombers through 2018 (and, in some cases, beyond), while depth offensive lineman Manase Foketi has also agreed to terms on an extension.

Justin Medlock and Derek Jones have also signed extensions, shoring up the Bombers’ special teams through next season.

This leaves one phase of the game unaccounted for as the club has yet to announce a defensive re-signing this off-season. There are plenty of key players to re-up on that side of the ball — star cover linebacker Maurice Leggett is pending free agent, as are all-star defensive backs T.J. Heath and Chris Randle and national defensive linemen Jamaal Westerman and Jake Thomas — but none have agreed to terms.

This seems to be an indication that the club is uncertain about the future of its defensive coaching staff. Richie Hall’s unit regressed in its third year under his tutelage, leading to speculation that the club would make a change at defensive coordinator come season’s end. Six weeks later, the Bombers have yet to make announcement regarding the future of its defensive coaching staff.

Rumblings have indicated that the Bomber brass is unhappy with Mike O’Shea’s drawn-out assessment of his defensive coordinator. One would think that a miserable performance in the West Semi-Final — Hall’s defence gave up five touchdowns of fifteen yards or more — would have been enough for O’Shea to pull the trigger on finding a new coordinator. No such announcement has been made.

That isn’t to say O’Shea’s sluggish decision-making is unprecedented (for him, anyway). The head coach waited seven weeks after a poor 2014 campaign to fire Gary Etcheverry, his first defensive coordinator in Winnipeg.

While swift, knee-jerk decision-making is rarely a recipe for success, wasting weeks of the off-season on slow, meandering staff reviews can be equally harmful to a team. Noel Thorpe, the top candidate available this off-season, was snapped up by the Ottawa Redblacks more than two weeks ago. Rick Campbell even managed to hire Thorpe while keeping Mark Nelson — Ottawa’s defensive coordinator of the past four seasons — on staff in a reduced role.

O’Shea needs to make a decision on Richie Hall as soon as possible. If he is dismissed (which, given the state of the club’s defence in 2017, should be a given) the Bombers will need time to find a successor before they begin making decisions about pending defensive free agents.

Winnipeg has already lost out on the top defensive coach on the market. Losing out on talented players as a result of delayed decision-making would be just another off-season setback for a team that has yet to win a playoff game since 2011.

You snooze, you lose. It’s as simple as that.

John Hodge

John Hodge

John Hodge is a lifelong follower of the CFL who has been writing about the league since 2014. He is a two-time finalist of the Jon Gott lookalike contest.
John Hodge
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John Hodge
About John Hodge (335 Articles)
John Hodge is a lifelong follower of the CFL who has been writing about the league since 2014. He is a two-time finalist of the Jon Gott lookalike contest.

17 Comments on Early re-signings point to defensive uncertainty in Winnipeg

  1. If O’shea is struggling with this decision maybe it’s a sign the Bombers should move on from O’Shea.

  2. We should for sure move on from oshea. He cannot game manage and he is a weak leader

  3. I just hope Richie doesn’t land in Riderville again.

  4. Replacing Hall should be a no-brainer…but then I think the same could be said of Sam Hurl and we hung on to him because of horrible decision making…I hope we don’t lose any of our ‘star’ D players because of O’Shea’s inaction

    • greenenvy? // December 26, 2017 at 2:22 pm //

      Fully agree. Lots of talk about getting Thorpe & RedBlacks absolutely outgunned the Bombers. Same happened before O’Shea when Reilly was rumoured to be going to either Wpg or Edm, but Hervey did what Wpg wouldn’t do – get negotiating rights. Bye bye Reilly. Hello Drew Willy. As for Hurl, not sure why he is around – that’s problem A on the defence IMO, along with having 3 very good DB’s & two 2nd or 3rd stringers starting.

  5. Free agents can’t sign with other teams until February 9th, bI believe. So still time to sign defensive players. But yes, O’Shea should get on with it. Either keep or fire Hall. Where’s Walters, the GM in all of this? KHe should be pushing O’Shea to make a decision.

  6. There are players signed with teams which won’t be announced till the New Year. Most teams don’t make all the announcements at once & generally not over Christmas. In January things heat up. But the coaches situation should be resolved sooner than later. Doug Brown noted in the Free Press that he sees maybe some assistants going but not Hall. I tend to agree with him on that, for all the reasons he stated.

  7. If MOS believes that the problem on D is not with Hall, then by default he’s say saying that: A) There isn’t a problem or B) The problem resides with the players. If he believes A, then he hasn’t been watching the games. If he says B, then he’s saying that the GM is to blame for not bringing in the right players. Either scenario is hugely problematic…if your name is Mike O’Shea (and if you’re a Bomber fan).

  8. I just love reading bloggers comment on how bad a coordinator is. Maybe the problem is higher up. Maybe Kyle Walters just has done a poor job giving the Bombers decent defenders to play with. I am of the opinion that Mo Leggett and Taylor Loffler are the only cover players in that secondary worth anything. Lousy at MLB too. That is not on Ritchie.

  9. It is very simple. Either the coaching and schemes were right and the PLAYERS did not execute them correctly or the SCHEMES were wrong and Hall did not call the right defense. Once that is cleared up either the players need changed or the DC who called the plays needs replaced. It either one or the other. In Ottawas situation they obviously felt they had the right players but the wrong coach.

  10. Maybe Oshea is on holidays.

  11. Fact checker // December 26, 2017 at 10:10 pm //

    Why is Thorpe a good hire? His players hated him, he couldnt make the playoffs for 3 seasons and was fired in the middle of the 2017 season. Ritchie Hall deserves a chance at redemption. They were playing with young players all over that secondary. That’s a personnel issue.

  12. Siegmund Walter // December 26, 2017 at 10:18 pm //

    The organization should relinquish all ties with Kyle Walters-Mike O’Shea and Richie Hall. Albert Einstein quoted “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results”..!!

    • antoine lussier // December 27, 2017 at 9:55 am //

      and w.c. fields once said:”if at first you don’t succeed, give up–no sense making a fool of yourself.

  13. Why would you fire O’Shea? Finished 2nd in a tough west. Best BB record in ages. Lost semi with a poor outing but that is one game. What if Stamps fired Huffer when they lost playoff after playoff. Consistency over time builds teams. Remember when Cowboy’s fans wanted a guy named Landry fired … owner reacted with a 10 year contract.

  14. Don’t ever think Walters does not have O Shea’s back. They are blood brothers from university days. The Bomber gig has been an incredible run for them.

    The only problem O Shea sees is that the fans are stupid and don’t understand.

    Can’t wait for the excuses after 2018. Another coordinator no doubt.

  15. I think the peg has a good team. Untimely injuries and just bad luck. The fans just need to step back and breathe.

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