From Long-Time Teammates To Rival Head Coaches

Two old friends, Steinauer and O’Shea, now meet as the opposing Head Coaches in the 2019 Grey Cup

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Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea, left, and Hamilton Tiger-Cats head coach Orlondo Steinauer answer questions during the coaches news conference at the CFL’s Grey Cup week in Calgary

By Raegan Subban

Hamilton Tiger-Cats football operations consultant Jim Barker will have a proud, dad-like moment on Sunday, November 24.

In 2012, Barker was the head coach of the Toronto Argonauts. He took a chance and asked two retired CFL players, with no previous coaching experience, to join his staff. Barker gave the Winnipeg head coach Mike O’Shea and Hamilton’s Orlondo Steinauer their first CFL coaching jobs. Barker knew O’Shea closely from the time he played for him, and knew Steinauer from reputation. However, their relationship did not begin there.

The two coaches go way back; Steinauer and O’Shea were teammates on the Argos in 2001. O’Shea was a middle linebacker and Steinauer was a safety. They won a Grey Cup together three years later when Toronto beat the B.C. Lions 27-19.They built a friendship through eight seasons together, before leaving the game in 2009.

After retiring as players, neither even spoke about the idea of having post-playing careers in the sport. They thought they were moving on to the next phase of their lives, and leaving football behind. A call from Jim Barker changed that.

The former teammates became coaching colleagues on their old team and won another Grey Cup in 2012 under Barker. O’Shea spent three years as Toronto’s special-teams coach before becoming Winnipeg’s head coach. He had a rough start with the Bombers, missing the playoffs his first two seasons and going a combined 12-24. Following that season, O’Shea finally got things going and made the playoffs the next four seasons.

Steinauer was the defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator from 2010-13 before becoming Hamilton’s defensive coordinator for three years. After spending one season as Fresno State’s defensive coordinator, he returned to the Tiger-Cats as assistant head coach. In 2019, he was promoted to head coach of the team.

Their friendship grew over the years and they have always supported each other. At the coaches’ press conference this week, Steinauer said, “Sometimes it’s a phone call, sometimes it’s a text of encouragement.”

He explains that nothing changes when life gets busy: “there’s such a common respect there that sometimes there’s nothing said but it says everything. I think that’s the bond and the appreciation, the respect we have for each other.”

He continues that it’s not just about football: “I asked him right away if Mike, his son, was coming out to the Grey Cup, so we’re always in tune with each other’s family. He asks about Kiana, my daughter at college at Southern Connecticut playing basketball It’s not all football related.”

O’Shea and Steinauer will battle against each other in the 107th Grey Cup as Head Coaches, another special moment to add to the many years of friendship. However when they get onto the field, none of it will matter.

Steinauer lead the Ti-Cats to a CFL-best 15-3 record, tying the league mark for most wins by a first-year head coach. He also defeated O’Shea this season as the Ticats swept the two-game series with Winnipeg. Steinauer was playing on the Ticats 20 years ago – the last time the team won a Grey Cup – while O’Shea is helping Winnipeg chase their first Grey Cup title since 1990.

Even though the two have shared a special bond over the years, none of it will matter on Sunday. “Hey, we’re highly competitive,” O’Shea said. “We both want our teams to win, and win with authority – trust me.”

Steinauer added, “I can tell you that after the coin toss, there’s no wave across. It’s going to be two physical football teams going after one goal. Nine teams start off with the same goal and there’s only two teams working this week, so, yeah we want to beat each other.”

They’ve won Grey Cups as players and, later on, assistant coaches. On Sunday when they square off, may the best friend win.

Tweet: With the Grey Cup around the corner, I wrote the article ‘From Long-Time Teammates To Rival Head Coaches’. Take a look to find out more on the coach of each team. #GreyCup #CFL

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