Much has been said on Twitter, in mainstream media and in this humble blog (entry 1, entry 2) about the Kevin Glenn affair (can it be called a saga yet?) with the Ottawa Redblacks. From the quite reasonable, to the entirely uninformed, opinions run the gamut. Here’s one more look at it.
To quickly summarize, it appears Glenn expected to be named the starter in Ottawa following his selection in the expansion draft, or at least considered himself the odds-on favourite for the job, in spite of the fact general manager Marcel Desjardins made it clear that very same day he was still looking to improve the team at the QB position. No one other than Glenn, Desjardins and probably head coach Rick Campbell know what was said behind closed doors, but it seems very unlikely promises about the starting job were made. I can’t imagine a player selected in an expansion draft would be handed the starting job right out of the shoot.
Shortly after the draft, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats decided to release 39-year-old and future CFL Hall of Fame QB Henry Burris, following their signing of former Toronto Argonauts QB Zach Collaros. Ottawa and Winnipeg went hard at Burris, with the Redblacks ultimately convincing him to sign on with expansion club. A great addition and statement that Ottawa wasn’t messing around in year one. The signing was met with near-universal praise.
At the Burris press conference, Desjardins welcomed “the new starting quarterback of the Ottawa Redblacks” to the fan base. At the time, I found it curious that Desjardins went out of his way to call Burris the starting QB. Kind of goes without saying, no?
The more I think about it now, this controversy is likely based entirely on that choice of words and little else. Glenn had to know the Redblacks were looking to make a splash and he would be facing some competition other than QBs Thomas DeMarco (also picked in the expansion draft) and Matt Faulkner (free-agent signing). But dropping that “starter” tag appears to be the kicker for Glenn. Perhaps it was simply a marketing decision for Ottawa, giving the fans a “face of the franchise” they were somewhat familiar with. Or perhaps they were just being honest about their expectations of this new reality heading into training camp. Whatever the reason, Desjardins and the Redblacks could have been a little more careful with their words, I suppose. But should they have to?
More importantly: would it make any concrete difference to Glenn?
The reality of the situation is that regardless of who was named preseason starter, Glenn would be attending training camp with the same opportunity to win the job that he had before the Burris signing. Yes, he wouldn’t get the same attention that the big free-agent acquisition will get (and let’s not discount Burris’ uncanny ability to market the team and attract attention — he seriously has a gift), but it is ultimately about the game on the field. If Glenn proved to be the better player, the job would be (or soon be) his. At the end of the day, it is still all about winning football games.
Instead of going to camp and competing, Glenn took the entire thing as a slight and immediately asked for a trade or his release. The ‘opportunity’ to compete for the starting job in Ottawa apparently no longer wanted. Desjardins has refused to release him, which makes perfect sense for an expansion team still trying to fill out a roster. A trade is the only option Ottawa can consider at this point and Desjardins apparently won’t let Glenn go cheap. With training camp still a few months out, Desjardins can be patient.
End of the day, it’s an unfortunate situation. I don’t believe there is anything the Redblacks should have done differently. They are trying to create interest, excitement and the best team possible, after all. Based on what we know, Glenn wasn’t promised anything more than a chance to compete for the starting job, and that chance remains. It is also true that Glenn has paid his dues and probably deserves a shot at starting. But with all nine of those jobs seemingly filled, and Glenn’s contract heavily weighted on number of starts, the options are limited for him. It also strikes as more than a little presumptuous for an expansion draft pick to expect anything be given to him. Ottawa might actually be Glenn’s best opportunity to start a lot this year – hard to expect a 39-year-old to stay healthy through an entire season. But it appears that’s no longer an opportunity Glenn wants.
The best option for both sides might be to have Glenn in camp and wait for an opportunity to arise elsewhere once injuries inevitably materialize. We’ll see how it plays out.