To say Mike O'Shea's head coaching career has started out pretty well might be a bit of an understatement — going 5-1 out of the gate with a Blue Bombers club that struggled severely last season, having numerous new faces both on the sidelines and on the field, and leaving the offence in the hands of a young quarterback who came to town with less than a handful of professional starts.
And while quarterback Drew Willy's heroics executing the two-minute drill in Winnipeg's Week 3 and Week 6 come-from-behind road victories in Montreal and Hamilton are a big reason why the Blue Bombers sit atop the league standings, the rookie head coach continues to work to instil a single mentality in his team — if they continue to work to get better every week, they will.
"There's reasons why we have won the games we've won, and there's reasons why they've been closer than we may have liked them to be," said O'Shea in his first media session since his team's 27-26 victory over Hamilton. "There's reasons why we've lost a game, so I think it's just all based on fact. We're not conjuring something up here. We're looking at the facts of why we are where we are, presenting those facts and showing them how we can be better, because it's all about growth. It's all about getting better and improving every week. I mean, that's a pretty simple formula — harder to execute, obviously — but a simple mindset from the coaching staff that we're going to improve every week."
"It's been easier to coach and correct the mistakes after wins, so it's been good that way so far for us. But it's never 5-1 or skin-of-your-teeth. It's not that. It's always that, whatever that is — a consistent approach from the coaching staff. Continuing to inspect the things that are important to us, that allow us to win."
Win or lose, O'Shea is approaching his team's preparation every week in the same way regardless of the results in the rear view mirror.
"I think the coaching staff is doing what it needs to do to ensure we are consistent through our preparation," he said. "We've all agreed to coach (the players) hard, as people say, because I believe that's what they would want. That's what they need. I think players still crave a certain amount of discipline. So if we can help them win more games by keeping that same sort of coaching style I think they'll appreciate it and they'll respond to it. So I think the way we're going, the way we've gone so far and what we've done, from a coaching perspective, is the way we'll keep on going."
But the early success begs the question; how good can the 2014 Winnipeg Blue Bombers be?
"We want to play our best football right now, but hopefully our best right now pales in comparison to what our best will be at the end of the season," added O'Shea when asked about his team reaching a pinnacle come late-season. "But it's not by design — we're not thinking way in the future that we want to play our best football there. We're talking about playing our best football this week. And coaching them; correcting the mistakes along the way so that our best football is better week-in and week-out."
"I think we still have a lot of room for growth, but to be where we're at now I think it's good so far, but there's still a lot of room to go."
NOTES: Starting right guard Patrick Neufeld suffered a leg injury in the first quarter in Hamilton and was listed as doubtful to return to the game. O'Shea says they'll see how things shape up by the end of the week, but believes Neufeld's chances of starting Thursday night are "promising" ... After missing last week with a foot injury, slotback Nick Moore remains day-to-day and will be re-assessed later in the week ... Fellow slotback Cory Watson, who has been out of the lineup since Week 1 with a hamstring injury, should begin practicing again this week but his imminent playing status remains far from certain ... Zach Anderson is also being monitored for an undisclosed injury suffered Thursday night.