By: Santino Filoso
In a somewhat surprising move yesterday, the Ottawa Redblacks fired offensive co-ordinator Mike Gibson. Don’t get me wrong, the firing itself isn’t unexpected or undeserved, but the timing is, as most teams normally wait until after the Grey Cup to make coaching changes. Perhaps the Redblacks simply wanted a head start in finding his replacement. Here’s what head coach Rick Campbell had to say:
“Mike is a dedicated football man and I’d like to thank him for his efforts this year. We continue moving toward growing into a winning football team. We have some names in mind but we’ll take the time to do our homework before hiring anybody. We want to add a coach that will best help us to win football games.”
While it’s important to remember that in the end a man lost his job, this was simply a move the team had to make. Though every expansion team has growing pains and takes time to gel, Gibson’s offence looked out of sync all year. To be fair, the injuries at the running back position and over 50 dropped passes were out of his control and certainly didn’t help his cause, but too often the game plan and play calling was highly questionable (to put it politely). Gibson also had a tendency to get away from the run game, something that proved to be extremely effective all season…..when the Redblacks actually ran the ball. It’s ironic that a former offensive line coach was fired partly because he ignored the run game, you’d think he would’ve been the biggest advocate for it. Instead Ottawa ranked dead last in the league in rushing.
One of the biggest issues the Redblacks dealt with this season was poor offensive line play, Burris was sacked once every ten times he dropped back to pass. While Gibson can’t be blamed because he’s not the offensive lineman getting beat, his lack of adjustments, such as calling more screens or quick passes to get the ball out the QBs hands faster, would’ve resulted in less sacks and put his players in a better position to be successful.
Ultimately it comes down to cold hard numbers and this season’s offensive performance was simply ugly. Under Gibson, Ottawa averaged 14.1 point per game and ranked 8th in the league with 324 yards per game. The Redblacks put up a measly 278 points this year, 82 less than Montreal’s 360, the second lowest scoring team in the CFL. Most damningly, Ottawa failed to score a TD in seven, yes you read that right, seven games this season.
Perhaps what sealed Gibson’s fate was that the offence got worse over Ottawa’s final few games. Instead of finishing strong and showing any kind of significant improvement, the team limped to the finish, capping off the year by putting up 5 whole points against the Argos. R-Nation has been clamouring for Gibson’s head all season and clearly management heard their voices. Firing Gibson shows that the team knows they need to make big strides next year.
Gibson’s time in Ottawa will probably best be remembered by his puzzling calls in short yardage situations and for making Redblacks history as the first coach to be fired in franchise history. With him now out of the picture, there are a number of interesting candidates who might replace him. Guys like Argos receivers coach Jason Maas, Alouettes offensive co-ordinator Ryan Dinwiddie, Argos offensive co-ordinator Marcus Brady and former Montreal quarterback Anthony Calvillo have all been rumoured to be potential candidates. Notice a trend? Every one of them is a former QB. Landing a guy like Calvillo would be a home run for the organization as his winning pedigree speaks for itself, but I don’t think you’d want to immediately hand him the headset, he might be better off as a QB coach first for a few years. Current Ottawa GeeGees coach Jamie Barresi has his team playing extremely well and might be a dark horse candidate. Finally, current TSN broadcaster Paul LaPolice could be an option as his name always seems to pop up whenever there is an opening around the CFL.
Who would you like to see the Redblacks hire as their new offensive co-ordinator?