February 19, 2023

Grassroots to the big stage, Bob Dyce took a rare path to a CFL Head Coaching job

Hamilton Tiger-Cats vs Ottawa REDBLACKS October 29, 2022 PHOTO: André Ringuette/Freestyle Photography

The connection between Bob Dyce and the city of Winnipeg is simply undeniable. It’s where he grew up, discovered his love for coaching football, and eventually cracked the CFL.

Though the connection to home may have been the thing that ignited his coaching future, wandering out into the great unknown of the Canadian Football League is the thing that allowed him to continue his growth as a coach.

“I could have stayed in Winnipeg, but I knew that for my career, I needed to expand my connections, I couldn’t be the local guy in Winnipeg forever,” Dyce said. “When I had the opportunity to go to Saskatchewan, it was about finding an opportunity to grow and advance my career.”

No matter who you are – a player, coach, front office staff, or popcorn vendor – going from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to the Saskatchewan Roughriders is going to raise some eyebrows. The fierce rivalry extends beyond the Bombers and Riders, and into Manitoba against Saskatchewan.

Dyce recalls going home in the offseason and driving around in his truck that featured Roughriders logos in the windows, drawing the ire of Winnipegers, and Bombers fans all over the province. But he did so without regret, believing that he made the right choice.

In Regina, Dyce’s role slowly ballooned, before he was named the Offensive Coordinator in 2012. It was short-lived, and his role once again changed for the 2013 season, being named the Special Teams Coordinator. Once again, Dyce took the move in stride, and in 2013, he helped the Roughriders to their first Grey Cup since 2007, earning his first ring in the process.

“To win it in an environment like that – there were 45,000 people – was almost surreal,” Dyce said. “To make the transition into special teams, and win the Grey Cup, was just phenomenal.”

The switch paid off in more ways than one. The Grey Cup win was certainly sweet – there’s no denying that – but it also served as a boost for Dyce, who began to believe he could one day work his way up to being a Head Coach.

“That’s when I thought there might even be the opportunity to move on to be a head coach,” Dyce said of his new role with the Riders. “All of a sudden, I was coaching the whole team, I wasn’t locked into a side of the ball. It was something I wanted to drive to.”

Things quickly deteriorated in Saskatchewan, and Dyce was handed the keys, being named the Interim Head Coach of the club in 2015 for the final nine games of the season. Despite helping the Riders to an improved stretch of football – going 3-6 his reign – Dyce never got the chance to interview for the Head Coach role, bringing his time in Regina to a close.

The opportunity was integral for other reasons, Dyce says. Going into things, he knew there was a good chance he wouldn’t remain with the Riders beyond the end of the season, but it gave him a chance to earn some experience as a Head Coach, building his confidence, and self-belief.

“If anything, it forged my belief in myself as a leader, knowing that I could still get a group together in challenging situations and be successful,” Dyce said, reflecting on his 3-6 run.

The next opportunity brought Dyce to Ottawa, where he won another Grey Cup as the Special Teams Coordinator in 2016, before becoming the team’s Head Coach for the 2023 season. It’s the true embodiment of the old saying “when one door closes, another opens.”

“Maybe I didn’t become the Head Coach in Saskatchewan that year, but I got to come here and work in this organization, which is just phenomenal,” Dyce said. “It has truly been a blessing.”

Reflecting on his development path is something that always brings Dyce a great deal of pride, as he blazed a Canadian trail seen by only a select few CFL coaches, all the way from the grassroots.

“I’m proud of the way I came up,” Dyce said. “I’m a product of grass-roots Canadian football. The biggest thing for me is that I’m not only a Canadian coach, but a Canadian coach who hasn’t played in the league. I climbed my way through the Canadian ranks from the outside, I take pride in that.”

While Dyce strives to reach the next goal – bringing another Grey Cup to Ottawa – he hopes that his career can serve as inspiration for other grassroots-level coaches, and players.

“If there’s one thing it shows, it’s that there is an avenue and that there are good coaches in Canada,” Dyce said. “If you’re willing to work at it, there is an avenue to get to [where you want].”