Wouldn’t you just love to be sitting at a poker table with Mike O’Shea?
I mean, the guy would go all-in on a fist full of nothing. No face cards. No aces. Just a collection of random numbers that add up to zip. Even if he held a full house in his meaty paws—three aces, kings high—he’d probably fold and let you take the pot with a pair of deuces.
Basically, that’s what O’Shea did on Sunday afternoon at B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver. He folded.
Justin Medlock was going to kick a 61-yard field goal like Donald Trump is going to invite Hillary Clinton into his inner circle. Oh, sure, a field goal of 61 or more yards is doable. It’s been done. Once. In the entire history of Canadian football, which dates back more than 100 years.
Can we put that in perspective? Well, consider this: Halley’s Comet appears in our sky every 76 years. That means some people will see it twice in their lifetime. Nobody’s ever seen a field goal of 61 yards or longer twice. Not north of the 49th.
Ironically, the only man to have had enough oomph in his kicking leg to hoof a field goal from that distance, Paul McCallum, was standing on the B.C. Lions’ sideline Sunday when Medlock launched a long-distance missile that fell seven yards shy of its desired landing site, thus leaving a resurgent Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ season in ruin.
McCallum might have been the only person in the joint who truly thought a 61-yard field goal possible, because he’d been there and done that one late October day in 2001, booting a 62-yarder for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. There’s also been a 60-yard FG and two from 59 yards out in the Canadian Football League. But, like McCallum’s kick, each of those was struck at old Taylor Field in Regina. Geez, you don’t suppose wind might have been a factor, do you?
If there was any wind at B.C. Place, it had to be the product of bad gas or the gasping of patrons who couldn’t believe that Bombers head coach O’Shea would make such a fool’s bet on one swing of Medlock’s left leg.
The option, of course, was to leave the ball in quarterback Matt Nichols’ hurling hand, which had been hot on this day. Trailing 32-31 in the West Division semifinal and confronted with a third down-and-four predicament, surely securing an additional four yards of real estate on a passing play was a more favorable gamble than a once-in-a-lifetime kick.
“I’m sure if I go out there and hit three of them, I probably make one of them,” Medlock suggested post-game.
So, by the kicker’s own admission, the success rate was 33.3 per cent. At best. In reality, the odds were much, much worse, given that CFL place-kickers are 1-for-forever in field goal attempts of 61 yards or more. Again, it’s only happened once. Ever. Outdoors. With a strong wind pushing from behind. Yet O’Shea instructed QB Nichols to stay on the sideline and trotted Medlock out on to the field and into the empty air of B.C. Place to attempt something he’d never done before.
“Kick gets off, it’s got a chance, right?” O’Shea reasoned after the fact. “I realize the offence would give us an opportunity, too, but the finality of…um…a third-down play compared to kicking the ball…”
Um…what part of “finality” did O’Shea not understand? Fail on a third-down pass or run, it’s over. Miss the kick, it’s over. So, you go with your best odds. Except O’Shea’s specialty as a coach has always been special teams, thus he placed his faith in a special-teams guy attempting a no-hoper rather than the quarterback who delivered a 10-3 record as a starter and saved the coach’s job in the process.
If I’m being charitable, I’ll describe O’Shea’s decision to kick a misguided bit of business. If I’m being honest (with gusts up to cruel), I’ll describe it as boneheaded, dumb, clueless, brain dead, all of the above.
Was this an off-with-his-head gaffe? Nope. Once the dust has settled on the Bombers 11-7 regular-season crusade and their one-and-done ouster from the Grey Cup skirmish, grand poobah Wade Miller will instruct general manager Kyle Walters to offer O’Shea a renewal. Soon. Term will be the issue. Had the Bombers beaten the Lions and advanced to the West Division final against the Stampeders in Calgary, a three-year deal might have been on the table. Now? Not so much. I’m guessing the blunder has cost O’Shea a year.
Either way, O’Shea will return and attempt to end Winnipeg’s 26-year Grey Cup famine. Perhaps he can get the job done by the time Halley’s Comet next appears in our sky. That’s scheduled for 2061. Gives him ample time to learn when to pass/run and when to kick.
Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for 46 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour in 2015.