#TBT: Looking back with Lonie

By: Santino Filoso

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I recently had an opportunity to catch up with Lonie Glieberman, one of the most notorious sports figures in Ottawa’s history. In 1991 Bernie Glieberman (Lonie’s father), bought the Rough Riders for $1 (assuming their $1,000,000 debt) and quickly installed Lonie as team president. Two years and several questionable moves later, the Gliebermans left town to start a CFL franchise in Shreveport after selling the Rough Riders to Bruce Firestone. In 2005 with the Renegades facing financial difficulties, the Gliebermans re-entered the picture, once more buying Ottawa’s team when no one else would. Lonie’s second go at being team president was again mired in controversy and only one year after buying the team Bernie walked away from it, forcing the Renegades to be suspended by the league.

RR: It’s 1991, why did you and your father decide to get into the CFL? Was it purely a sports move or was there another motive? (For example, real estate?)

LG: We thought buying the Rough Riders was a great opportunity as we were under the impression the CFL would expand. The team was obviously undervalued due to it’s debt and the league was buzzing at the time; Gretzky was involved with the Argos, Rocket Ismail was the highest paid player in pro football and all signs seemed to be pointing up.

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What experience did you have that made you feel confident that you’d succeed as the president of football operations? 

I didn’t have experience, but my Dad did. We looked at it as a global property, not just an Ottawa based one and I think that by treating it that way I did have some transferable skills from our other businesses. I was confident as the future looked bright, a big TV deal for the CFL seemed about to happen and that would’ve made all the difference. The reason the CFL is so strong and stable today is a direct result of the good TV deal they have.

Looking back, would you still have changed the R logo to the double flaming RRs knowing how much the single R meant to Ottawa’s football history? 

Well, I still do like the double Rs, but from a traditionalist standpoint the white R is better. I guess you can compare it to Alabama’s A, that encapsulates football there and won’t ever change. At the time we wanted to try and breath some life into the franchise but maybe changing the logo wasn’t the best idea.

Which logo was your favourite?

The double Rs with flames. To be honest I really love the Renegades logo too, granted when you look at it you don’t feel the tradition, but it’s a modern, cool logo. The plain white R carries emotion, but I still think the double flaming Rs looks better if you look at it unemotionally.

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Why did you fire Dan Rambo on the eve of the 1993 season? 

The main thing to keep in mind here is that this was the early cell phone era. I was at a wedding and received information from an employee in the organization who went to my dad and our CEO John Ritchie, claiming that there was a rebellion happening; scouts were threatening to quit over dissension about the way Dan was running football operations. Our main scout, Mike Mcagnon, was out of cell reach so instead of waiting to talk to him I rushed and made a bad decision without verifying the facts. It was a rash decision based on not enough information. I thought it was a move I had to make but I’ll be the first to admit it was not the right call. I hold myself accountable and it’s my fault for not slowing down and getting all the information, including talking to Dan Rambo.

Glenn Kulka and Andrew Stewart infamously fought at practice and during the course of their brawl crashed into your office. How’d you react to/handle that situation?

Football is a very emotional game and you have to deal with the fact that tempers sometimes flare. Instead of happening outside as a kind of practice scuffle, this one happened inside and ended up crashing through a glass wall. That’s the only reason it ever got out and became a big news.

How many Rough Rider cheerleaders did you actually end up dating? 

I came to Ottawa as a single, 23 year old guy and I have no problem admitting that I did what I think any other guy in my shoes would’ve done. I did what normal guys who are around a lot of single girls do. Unfortunately the story caught fire and went on but so be it. I certainly don’t think I did anything wrong.

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Was the introduction of an NHL franchise to the Ottawa market in ’92 at all part of the rationale for bailing on Ottawa, and going to Shreveport?   

No, that had nothing to do with it. There were two main reasons that we left. First, the stadium was a hinderance. I don’t blame the City of Ottawa as they were losing money running the facility, and it’s hard to maintain a stadium and make money, but they didn’t even have the funds to paint the seats in the stadium. The crew up-keeping the stadium was top notch, but there wasn’t enough dates or events to make it profitable or even break-even. The City did their best but ultimately it wasn’t enough. The second reason we left was because the CFL’s future at the time was in the US, expansion was the key to growing the league and keeping it afloat in a very difficult time.

The Rough Riders and Renegades have 124 years of history between them, do you still have any interesting mementos from either franchise?

I’ve got a couple of jerseys from the flaming R days and some old programs but that’s pretty much it. I’ve got more memories than mementos, to be honest. I have tons of old games on tape and like looking back at those, we played a number of really exciting games.

How were you treated by fellow owners in 1991-93 vs 2005? 

There wasn’t a real difference other than the fact that in the early years we came into a league that was in the middle of a crisis. The CFL faced tremendous challenges in the ’90s and I think there was a bit more solidarity as people weren’t sure if the league would survive. Every decision we made could’ve caused the league to fold. In 2005, things were firmer and the league was on stabler ground.

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What did you learn from running the Rough Riders that made you feel like things would be different with the Renegades in 2005?

More years of experience naturally makes you better at something. Fan support in early ’90s was just under 24,000 a game, which is similar to today’s 24,500 mark. Attendance wasn’t a challenge, but getting TV revenue was, so for us coming back, the TV deal was key.

After all the flak you took the first time around, why did you decide to come back to Ottawa in 2005, only to leave a year later?

The Renegades were well run but they ultimately didn’t succeed. We went from 4,000 season ticket holders to 10,000 in less than 24 hours by making things more affordable. On the field it was a fun year but we were decimated by losing so many free agents in the winter, that killed us. I give Joe Paopao a ton of credit for even winning 7 games. Off the field we felt that attendance was strong and if anything we were controversially run, definitely not poorly run. The Renegades didn’t end up being profitable but I didn’t run the team incompetently, just a little differently, and that’s not always a bad thing. There was a buzz around us and what would you rather have, a team that nobody cares about and that no one mentions, or one that is in the news, making the rounds at the water cooler?

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In 2006, why not stick with the team for at least another year and attempt to sell, instead of just returning the keys and walking away?

I resigned before the decision was made to leave. My father and his partners felt like it would take at least another 14 million before the team would financially turn around and start making money, meaning we were still around 3-5 years away from breaking even. Even after the team broke even it would’ve taken an incredibly long time to recoup that 14 million in profits. That reality combined with other factors was why the decision was made. We were losing too much money, there was still no good TV deal for the league, the stadium itself was a huge issue, so much so the City later declared the South Side stands unsafe for occupancy, and my Dad felt nothing was going to change, so that made leaving the only course of action. I was surprised to be honest, but it was Dad’s call, he didn’t want to keep throwing good money after bad.

To this day the Renegade’s Mardi Gras promotion continues to be criticized. Can you explain the thought process that went into it?

Sure, it’s incredibly simple. 16-28 year olds are the CFL’s lost generation and we felt we needed to get their attention. In 2005, how many high school kids do you think owned Renegade jerseys? Not too many right? A big part of that is because players change teams so much that it’s hard for fans to develop loyalty. In the NFL guys like Marino, Manning, Brady, etc. mainly played for a single team throughout their entire career, so it’s easy for generations of fans to identify with the team. In the CFL look at a guy like Burris, how many teams has he played on? Can you name a single QB in the CFL who played their entire career on one team? It doesn’t make sense why teams don’t do more to keep their franchise players. In the CFL a guy has a bad year and he gets turfed because it’s a small league and teams sacrifice player development to win now, which leads to a high rate of player turnover. That’s not how you build a young fan base.

Getting back to the promotion, the 16-28 age bracket was always more focused on the NFL and we felt we had to turn the them from the NFL to the CFL. Forget the hullabaloo about the girls for the moment, the Mardi Gras promotion created social interaction, and millennials like social gatherings. More than anything the promotion was an attempt to create a social scene that would get the “lost generation’s” attention. The hope was that young males would go to the game for the promotion but then think to themselves, “Wow the football is actually exciting” and then come back for the next game because of the on field product. If they aren’t coming to the stadium in the first place how can we make more CFL fans?

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People criticized the hell out of it but you can’t argue with result, attendance in the South Side upper deck, which wasn’t a place families went anyways, was sold out. The league hated it and unfortunately it had to be cancelled due to complaints. Ottawa radio shows were full of complaints but you can’t use those as science. Our actual customers might be happy, but they weren’t the ones calling in to complain.

There’s a quote that I believe strongly in that states: “It is better to be hated by some then loved by no one”. What the quote means is it very difficult for a brand to be loved by its customers if it plays it safe and is bland. Sometimes by being different you are going to piss people off but others will become passionate customers who love the brand. For example, Mount Bohemia (ski resort I run) doesn’t have any beginners runs nor do we ever groom the terrain. That pisses off beginner skiers and also the skiers who prefer groomed runs. However we’ve managed to create a very loyal fan base for those who like this brand position. That’s why Bohemia beat Mont Tremblant, Jay Peak and Sugarbush, all much bigger resorts than Bohemia, in a Powder (ski magazine) contest.

To sum up, the CFL’s biggest problem is that teenagers and young adults are indifferent to it. The Mardi Gras promotion at least got people talking about the team and into the stadium. It’s when people don’t care about your product that you’re in deep shit. Apathy is worse than hatred, no doubt. If a girl hates you it means she likes you but is pissed off. Mardi Gras was one of the ways we tried to fight that apathy.

Have you been back to Ottawa since the Renegades folded?

Yeah I came back briefly twice, on my way over to ski in Vermont. Whenever I’m in Ottawa I always go to Mamma Teresa’s Ristorante for the best Italian food in town and afterwards I hit up Stacy Kramer’s cookie shop for dessert.

What do you feel were your biggest accomplishments as a CFL owner?

Helping the CFL expand into the USA. People remember it darkly now, but at the time the league needed hope and US expansion represented that chance. People don’t mind losing money if there’s hope things will get better, but when there isn’t any hope people cut and run. The CFL creating teams in the US was a bold move and ensured the league survived and I’m proud to have been a part of it.

Which team did you enjoy owning the most? The Rough Riders, Shreveport Pirates, or Renegades? Why?

Every franchise had their positives and I really enjoyed living in Ottawa. It’s a super healthy city with tons of bike trails and I loved going around on my bike. Also, it was an honour to be a part of the Rough Rider’s rich history but as an American, I was proud to actually be writing history from scratch with the Pirates. As someone who grew up watching the CFL, it was fun to go into schools and communities in Shreveport and talk with people to build a fan base from the ground up, creating 11,000 season ticket holders. That first game in the stadium is a night I’ll never forget.

During your time in the CFL the league went through three commissioners, Donald Crump, Larry Smith and Tom Wright. Was there any one of them that you particularly liked or disliked? 

Crump was a super nice guy as was Tom Wright, though we often saw things differently. Larry Smith was great, he took charge in a very tough time and without him and John Tory, the league would’ve folded. Smith saved BC with new owners, kept teams together and helped get the ball rolling with US expansion. Those two guys don’t get a lot of credit but without their behind the scenes commitment, the CFL wouldn’t have made it. Smith takes a lot of flak for US expansion but it only failed because we didn’t have enough patience. US expansion produced a ton of really good players and some great games. It also showed that Canadian players were a lot better than people gave them credit for. Smith was a good leader and did a good job during his time as commissioner.

Do you think US expansion possible in the future?

I think it could work and greatly help the CFL but I don’t think they’re interested with their current success in Canada. If they were to do it, the best way to expand and to protect the league and it rules would be for the CFL to own the American division and maybe do an IPO to raise the capital. I know for certain that people in Shreveport really enjoyed the Canadian game and I think other cities in the US would too. Americans find the CFL way more wide open than the NFL and very interesting and exciting.
All that being said, I think the league’s happy where it’s at. With Buffalo’s ownership settled the NFL isn’t coming to Canada for awhile now so there’s no real external threats. At the moment the CFL is way too financially successful to take a risk like that.

Who was your favourite Rough Rider or Renegade?

There was lots of great players and people who came through both organizations but I always really liked Stephen Jones, because we had the Michigan connection. He was a great guy and a hell of a receiver. Another guy who was a great story is Johnny Scott. He showed up at a walk on try out in Shreveport for the Pirates, despite never having played college ball. He was raw but impressed the coaches enough to make the team as a back up and was starting by his 2nd year. He went on to have a great career and played for the Renegades in 2005. He’s a perfect example of a guy that without US expansion, never would’ve gotten a shot, and to me that kind of underdog story encompasses what the CFL is all about.

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Johnny Scott presenting Condoleezza Rice with a custom Renegades jersey

You were someone who always thought outside the box when running a franchise, especially in the Renegade era. What would you say was your least and most successful promotions?

The most successful would have to be the $99 season ticket promotion, where we gained over 6000 season ticket holders in a single day. It was a huge accomplishment for us as it raised out season ticket holder base to over 10,000 and more importantly, 30% of those who took advantage of the promotion had never been to a Renegades game. It was very successful at attracting new fans. As I mentioned before, Mardi Gras was controversial but not unsuccessful so I’m not sure what I’d say my least successful promotion was.

Do you understand why you are despised by some of Ottawa’s CFL fan base?

If we’re talking about us leaving in 2006, then that’s a fair criticism, but not so much for ’94, I mean, we’d turned things over to Bruce Firestone and been out of there for three years, so in my mind it isn’t fair to put that on us. But look, at the end of the day we didn’t succeed and whenever you fail people will be frustrated and disappointed. I’d rather have people dislike me and hate my guts, wrongly or rightly, because at least it shows they care about their team and are passionate. I always respect passion.

Would you ever feel comfortable attending a Redblacks game at TD Place?

Yeah, I really want to catch a game and nearly came up this year but was just too busy. The stadium looks beautiful and I think it’ll be even better in person. Probably best if I keep a low profile though, I wouldn’t want to cause a scene or upset anyone.

Do you still watch any CFL and if so who do you support? 

I definitely still follow and watch the games that air on ESPN and ESPN 3. If I had to pick a team I’d say Ottawa for sentimental reasons, but otherwise I really like Saskatchewan. I love the green Rider Pride thing they got going on, and the story of a successful small market team with a passionate fan base is a narrative I like. But more than anything I’m happy to look at the big picture and see the league doing well.

What has Jeff Hunt done to make the Ottawa Redblacks so successful and stable compared to previous Ottawa franchises?

They’ve got a lot going for them. First off it’s a great group of local owners with a great new stadium and they’re building slow and steady, which is the right way to do it. Also seems like they’ve found the right balance between attracting families and young people. Hunt’s got a ton of experience running sports teams so that helps as well. Ownership’s got the right stadium deal and doesn’t have to rely only on ticket sales revenue, instead they’ve got money coming in from the condos, stores, restaurants, cinema and other things around the stadium. With so many revenue streams they’re built for long term success. Lansdowne was a challenge when I owned the team but now it’s re-done and incredible. The brilliant development of the site makes all the difference in creating a positive attitude in the community.

If you could say one thing to Ottawa’s football fans, what would your message be?

I’m really proud to be part of the CFL and to have owned the two Ottawa franchises. It was a great experience and I’m glad we helped the league thrive during it’s most difficult time. For better or worse I’m proud of my actions and had fun at the games. People need to remember that it’s okay to be different once in awhile.

Thank you for your time.

– Santino (@RedBlackGade)

*All images via Google

The Maas Effect; Argos Loss = Redblacks Gain

By: Santino Filoso

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Christmas came early for R-Nation, as yesterday afternoon the Ottawa Redblacks announced the addition of Bryan Chiu to their coaching staff. The 40 year old Chiu becomes the Redblacks first true offensive line coach, as last season former offensive co-ordinator Mike Gibson coached the offensive line in addition to calling plays.

Chiu, a 13 year CFL veteran, was a seven time all-star, winning two Grey Cups with the Montreal Alouettes in 2002 and 2009 and he also captured the award for the CFL’s top lineman in 2002. As a player, Chiu was known to be an offensive lineman with an edge, the kind of guy you love to have on your team but hate to play against. Hopefully Chiu can instil some of that tough mentality to an Ottawa offensive line that was simply pushed around too often last season.

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Since his retirement following the 2009 season, Chiu has gone on to coach in the CIS with the Concordia Stingers, working as their OL coach and assistant offensive co-ordinator from 2010-2013. Last season Chiu coached a Toronto Argonaut’s offensive line that allowed 42 sacks in 681 drop backs, which equals 1  sack given up every 16 passing plays. Not bad at all when you consider the Redblacks gave up  56 sacks in 591 drop backs, or a sack every 10 passing plays. In terms of the running game, the Argos averaged 5.3 yards per carry and 91 per game compared to the Redblacks 4.9 yards per carry and 82 per game.

One way to look at this addition is that Jason Maas’ hiring as the offensive co-ordinator is already paying off in spades as on he was able to lean on his relationship with the former CFL all-star and lure him away from the Argos. Head Coach Rick Campbell alluded to as much saying:

Bryan understands the CFL and specifically offensive line play in the CFL. He’s also familiar with our new offensive coordinator Jason Maas after coaching together last year in Toronto so we think that relationship will continue to build and help us be successful. Bryan is up and coming with a long successful career as a player and a promising career as a coach in the CFL.”

Having both Maas and Chiu on the Redblacks coaching staff probably also gives the Redblacks an inside track on some of the Argo’s free agents. A guy like Tyler Holmes, who Chiu coached all last season, might be more willing to sign in Ottawa as he’ll already know a few familiar faces.

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In my opinion the most important thing about this signing is that it shows R-Nation that management has watched the tape and sees what we the fans see, and isn’t afraid to spend to get better. Our offensive line was a weakness last season but bringing a guy like Chiu in directly addresses this weakness and makes the team better. Though Chiu is young and perhaps a little inexperienced in terms of coaching, I think he’s exactly what the doctor ordered.

What do you think of Bryan Chiu’s signing?

@RedBlackGade

#TBT: Catching Up With Korey Banks

By: Santino Filoso

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For this week’s Throwback Thursday interview, I chatted with former Ottawa Renegade DB Korey Banks. Banks, an eight time CFL All Star, racked up 37 career interceptions, 22 sacks, 14 fumbles, 442 tackles, 7 touchdowns and two Grey Cup rings.

RR: As an American coming to Ottawa, what was your first impression of the city?

KB: It was unreal. It was my first time out of country and I was so excited. I entered the league in 2004 after being cut from the NFL. At first I hated living in a hotel without a vehicle and not really making any money, but I loved the atmosphere, vibe and people in the city. Ottawa was great to me man, I loved everything about it.

In 2005, your second year in the league, you quickly became a fan favourite, leading the league with 10 interceptions. How were you so successful so early in your career?

I actually predicted I’d get 10 picks in pre-season interview. My confidence was high because I knew I almost made it in the NFL and that as a young guy they’d throw the ball at me to test me. By the time QBs knew I could play, I already had 7 or 8 picks. After the season I had a few NFL teams come sniffing but they weren’t offering a lot of money up front and Ottawa put a big offer on the table, so I couldn’t pass it up.

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A lot of people blame the Renegades ownership for being a distraction to the team, did you ever feel that way?

I was too young into my career to really understand that part of the business. I didn’t look at it like other people, I just looked at it like there’s an owner and I’m a player and we had a mutual respect. If I saw him I’d say hello but not much else because I knew that to keep my job I had to perform at a high level.

When the Renegades folded in 2006, did you have any idea where you would end up?

I was getting calls from Ticats at the time but in the dispersal draft they traded with Saskatchewan, and I knew I wasn’t going there as they already had guys like Omar Morgan and Eddie Davis. BC really came out of nowhere but it was a good change for me, I went from from shit to sugar, last place to Grey Cup. I wasn’t used to losing and only ever had a losing season when I was in college at Mississippi State. Losing was killing me but the most disappointing thing about the Renegades folding was that us players felt like we were about to turn things around. When Ottawa went under the best players were scooped up but a lot of good friends lost jobs.

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I’m sure every interception is satisfying but did you enjoy picking off certain QBs more than others?

I loved picking off Anthony Calvillo or Ricky Ray, when you got those guys, you knew you were really doing your thing. But now that I think about it, the most satisfying interceptions were when I got Dave Dickenson in practice, because he knew the all angles. Dickenson didn’t have the strongest arm but his ball placement was perfect.

Were you a big trash talker?

Early in career I was, but I did it to get noticed and make a name for myself. Where I’m from that’s how you got noticed. Later on in my career I matured and didn’t need to do it as much. I mean of course I still did it, but I didn’t waste time trashing talking guys I played three times a year. I knew to save it for the playoffs.

How did you pump yourself up before a big game?

I had a routine to do the opposite actually. I listened to slow music because I  had to mellow myself out. I knew the next couple hours would be high pressure with me flying around so basically I had to meditate and get my mind right.

Who was the toughest receiver you ever had to cover?

I played against a lot of great wide receivers. I think I had tough match ups every week, going head to head with guys like Ben Cahoon, Jason Tucker, Milt Stegall, Geroy Simon, Fred Stamps, Nik Lewis, DJ Flick, and Jeremaine Copeland. Week after week they kept coming and I had to come in and set the tempo. Against guys like that you have to stick your fork in the ground, stand strong and make them play your way. If you blink they’ll beat you all day.

During your CFL career you played for Ottawa, BC and Winnipeg, where was the toughest stadium to play in and why?

I wouldn’t say it was the toughest atmosphere, but in Hamilton I only ever made a few plays. After some success against them early in my career with Ottawa, once I went to BC something about that stadium just threw me off a bit. In 10 years I think I only made 5 or 6 big plays there. I’m not saying I played poorly in Hamilton, just that I didn’t have great games there, never really got my mojo going.

Obviously this season things in Winnipeg didn’t work out as you hoped, what happened there and what are your plans for next season?

I don’t know what happened there, I always respected everyone and did what I needed to do. When I came into Winnipeg they gave me a big contract, hyped me up as an impact player and everyone seemed to be on the same page. I had a great camp, picking off 8 passes in practice, was a stand up teammate and always did what I was asked. It boiled down to the fact that Gary Etcheverry had a problem with me, which I never understood since we were working towards the same goal. One day in practice I asked him a question and he just nodded and jogged off without answering me. At the next meeting he starts it off by talking about how players shouldn’t question coaches, etc. etc. This is the same guy who doesn’t use a playbook, he just writes plays on the board and then erases them. As a player you feel uncomfortable as you have nothing to reference when studying. To Etcheverry players are just horses to be run. He’s a total joke and a clown. I’m not denying he’s got a good football mind but the man’s a clown and has no relationship with his players.

When the Bombers started playing games with me, putting me on the IR and stuff, the joke ended up on them as they were on the hook for my salary this season, and with the settlement I got to stay home this year and get paid. The whole experience left a bitter taste in my mouth and made me hate the CFL. Well, actually not the CFL, just Winnipeg, I hope they never win anything again. As for my career I’m done with football.

Did you still keep in touch with any of the other guys you played with in Ottawa?

I still talk to Kyries Hebert, Jason Armstead and I recently met Quincy Coleman for some drinks. I catch up with Brad Banks once in awhile as well.

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Why did you wear #24?

When I first came to Ottawa the equipment manager gave it to me. I got off to a good start using it and everyone in every pro league wearing #24 was balling, so I decided to roll with that.

What piece of football advice would you offer to young players looking to take their game to the next level?

You gotta ask yourself before you think about a career as a football player, do you have anything else to fall back on? Don’t just go into it wanting to be a football player, since you can’t control that. You’ve gotta understand the game and your opponent and then you’ll do well. If you don’t know the game you’re competing on athletics.

When CFL fans hear the name Korey Banks, what would you like them to think of or remember?

I’d like them to remember a guy who played the game at a great level. When a new DB breaks into the CFL and has sustained success, not a flash in the pan one year wonder, but success at a high level for a number of years, I’d like them to say “Man that guys reminds me of Korey Banks”. That would truly be satisfying.

Thanks for your time Korey and best of luck to you in the future!

@RedBlackGade

– Images via Scott Grant Photography

Jason Maas Takes the Offensive Reins

By: Santino Filoso

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Yesterday afternoon, the Ottawa Redblacks held a press conference to formally introduce Jason Maas as the team’s new offensive co-ordinator. Maas’ hiring had been rumoured since the weekend but only became official on Wednesday afternoon.

Maas, a former QB, played 11 seasons in the CFL with the Eskimos, Ticats and Alouettes. Twice he was a finalist for the league’s MOP award and also sports two Grey Cup rings from the 2003 and 2005 seasons. In 2004, Maas established a CFL record with 22 straight completions, a record that still stands to this day. After retiring in May 2011, Maas was quickly hired as a WR coach by the Toronto Argos. In 2013 he was promoted to QB coach and worked closely with Argos QB Ricky Ray.

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By choosing to hire the 39 year old (who is actually 5 months younger than Henry Burris), the Redblacks went with youth and potential over more established candidates such as Paul LaPolice or George Cortez. Here’s Head Coach Rick Campbell’s explanation of the hiring:

“Jason has many qualities that make him a great coach with a bright future.  His positive approach to teaching brings out the best in the players.  His outstanding work ethic and ‘can-do’ attitude are infectious and help to create a winning team atmosphere. He has an outstanding knowledge of the CFL, the game and its players and we know that having him as a member of our staff is going to help our team.”

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Personally, I love this move. Maas is an extremely intelligent guy known for his attention to detail and strong work ethic. The fact that he’s a proven winner and been around a guy like Ricky Ray in the Argos offensive system, one of the best in the league, is a huge positive. Furthermore, Maas has strong relationships with many current players as not too long ago he played with or against them. Those relationships could prove to be beneficial as Ottawa tries to sign free agents.

Though expectations are high, former offensive co-ordinator Mike Gibson didn’t exactly leave big shoes to fill. In 2014 the Redblacks averaged 15.4 points a game and only scored a pathetic 24 touchdowns. When pressed for details about the kind of system he’s looking to implement, Maas replied by saying

“It’s not hard to figure what kind of offence I’ll run, I’ve been around some great offensive minds in the CFL, starting with Danny Maciocia and  Scott Milanovich, and the offence we’ll run is very similar to what Scott’s been running in Toronto and what Marc Trestman brought up here.”

How can a member of R-Nation not smile when hearing those words?

@RedBlackGade

P.S. Have to call out TSN1200 for failing to cover the press conference. I get that Ottawa is gripped in Alfie mania but it wouldn’t have killed them to switch gears for a few minutes.

A Look Back at the Redblacks Inaugural Season

By: Santino Filoso

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Before closing the books on the Redblacks 2014 season, it’s worth one final look back at how they got to their league worst 2-16 record and why they’ll be drafting 1st overall in May.

Game #1: 36-28 loss to Winnipeg

After exploding for 21 points in the 1st quarter, the Redblacks’ offense bogged down and managed only 7 for the rest of the game. Ultimately a 96 yard kick return TD and a late Bomber FG put this one out of reach.

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1st TD in Redblacks history

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Game #2: 27-11 loss to Edmonton

The Redblacks lost this defensive struggle on a few key plays and by gifting the Eskimos with incredible field position (11 penalties for 118 yards) on a day when both offences struggled. Jamill Smith had an open lane for a punt return TD but stepped out of bounds. The turning point came late in the 4th quarter with the Eskimo’s inside the red zone. Brandon Lang sacked Mike Reilly with a clean (and I really do mean textbook) hit, but was called for roughing the passer. Edmonton went on to score and pulled away in what had been a single score game until that point.

Edmonton Eskimo's Vs Ottawa RedBlacks

Seth Williams, Nate Coehoorn

Edmonton Eskimo's Vs Ottawa RedBlacks

Game #3: 18-17 win over Toronto

After 3177 days, CFL football returned to Ottawa with a roar as R-Nation unleashed nine years of pent up energy. Kicker Brett Maher made six FGs and the Redblacks hung on for their first win as LB Jasper Simmons sealed the deal with a dramatic interception on the final drive of the game.

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Game #4: 33-23 loss to Hamilton

In a game where the Redblacks’ offence finally came to life, the defence got shredded by the Ticats back up QB. The Dan LeFevour show single handedly beat the Redblacks as he piled up 470 total yards of offence, 361 in the air and 109 rushing.

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Ottawa Redblacks v Hamilton Tiger-Cats

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C.J. Gable

Game #5: 38-14 loss to Saskatchewan

This flag filled affair was over early as the GREENWHITES built up a 24-0 lead after 15 minutes and never looked back. Anytime the Redblacks seemed to be generating some positive momentum drops and/or flags killed their drives. But yeah, they did score the 1st TD at TD Place off a nice trick play.

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Thomas DeMarco, punter extraordinaire

Game #6: 38-17 loss to Calgary

Drops and flags continued to plague the Redblacks as they were simply outclassed by a much better Stampeder team. 1st round pick Antoine Pruneau got his first start and responded nicely by making 8 tackles.

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The football gods were not listening

Game #7: 10-8 loss to Edmonton

On a cold rainy night, the Redblacks defense shined, making two goal line stands, generating 4 turnovers, getting 3 sacks and not allowing a touchdown. After a late offensive drive appeared to have put the Redblacks in position to win, Matt Carter fumbled inside the Eskimo’s red zone. Using his arm and legs, Mike Reilly moved Edmonton into position to kick the game winning FG with 20 seconds left.

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Taking the coach’s advice, Elder really got his head in there

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Game #8: 32-7 loss to Calgary

Wearing their new Signature Look uniforms for the first time (minus the plaid helmets), the Redbalcks hung with the Stamps until late in the 4th quarter when a tired defence collapsed and allowed Calgary to put up 21 points in 4 minutes and 5 seconds. After another poor offensive showing, a potential QB controversy was avoided when Thomas DeMarco was hit low and tore his knee in the last minute of the game.

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Unsurprisingly, not flagged

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Game #9: 20-10 loss to Montreal

Running the ball only seven times + a number of questionable PI and roughing the passer calls against the Redblacks + Head Coach Rick Campbell’s decision not to kick a FG when down 10 with 1:30 left = another loss.

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Can you spot the Renegade and Bear?

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Game #10: 7-5 loss to BC

Frank Clair’s statue was unveiled and a torrential downpour caused a 20 minute rain delay. The Redblacks found another way to lose by fumbling a 4th quarter FG snap that would’ve given them a late lead.

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Possibly the easiest of his 31 career interceptions

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Game #11: 35-32 double OT loss to Saskatchewan

Despite finally exorcising their offensive demons, the Redblacks defense and a few non-calls by the referees cost Ottawa a much needed win. Weston Dressler’s 2nd quarter punt return sparked the GREENWHITES comeback but shouldn’t have counted as there were two illegal blocks, right in front of referees, that went unflagged. Conservative play calling in overtime backfired as the Redblacks played for the tie instead of going for the win but had their FG attempt blocked.

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Ottawa Redblacks v Saskatchewan Roughriders

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Ottawa’s hit of the year

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Game #12: 15-7 loss to Montreal

The Redblacks faced 3rd and 1 six times and went a pathetic 1-6. Three times the Redblacks ran out of shotgun on 3rd and 1 and got stuffed. OC Mike Gibson’s play calling was atrocious all game long, especially in the red zone. The game ends with Ottawa on Montreal’s 7 yard line when WRs fail to get lined up and Gott snapped the ball into Burris’ ankles, leading to a sack as time ran out.

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Game #13: 42-20 win over Winnipeg

Jonathan Williams’ break out game led to Ottawa’s 2nd win of the season as he exploded for 229 yards and 2 TDs, with 180 of them coming on the ground. The Redblacks’ defence chipped in with 3 interceptions and six sacks.

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After thrashing the Bombers, Ottawa’s CPR attempts failed to revive Winnipeg’s crushed playoff hopes.

Game #14: 41-3 loss to BC

Maybe it was the West Coast effect, but the Redblacks came out without a pulse and never recovered. The offensive was sluggish with no WR making more than two catches all game and the defence was gouged by Kevin Glenn and company.

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*Not pictured, BC’s Felions who launched Bighill skyward

Game #15: 16-6 loss to Hamilton

The defence was once again stout but ultimately a toothless offence and a number of penalties prevented Ottawa from getting its first win on the road. Rick Campbell’s baffling decision to punt the ball down 10 points on 3rd and 2 near midfield with 3 minutes left in the game caught many by surprise.

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 Game #16: 23-17 loss to Montreal

At the first major gathering after the shooting on Parliament Hill, the Redblacks played inspired football in front of R-Nation but ultimately came up short. The dual QB system of O’Brien and Burris proved to be slightly effective but the game turned on a clear 4th quarter fumble that was recovered by Ottawa but incorrectly ruled not a fumble, even after review. This led Campbell to challenge the challenge (which is technically legal under CFL rules). In the last minute of the game Matt Carter got behind Montreal’s secondary but dropped a long pass that would’ve been a touchdown.

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Game #17: 34-25 loss to Hamilton

The 9th straight sellout crowd at TD Place was treated to an exciting game of back and forth football on Halloween night, the last home game of the season. Unfortunately it’s damn near impossible to win a game when you have 5 turnovers (with 21 points coming off them), give up a 103 yard kick off TD return and throw two pick sixes.

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Game #18: 23-5 loss to the Argos

The Redblacks season came to an end with a whimper. O’Brien got the majority of reps at QB but struggled to move the ball and seemed to crumble in the face of pressure. Argos backup QB Harris had a hot start before Ottawa’s defence allowed only a FG in the 2nd half.

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@RedBlackGade

– All images from CFL.ca, ottawaredblacks.com, Ottawa Sun or Ottawa Citizen unless otherwise noted

Positional Review of the 2014 Redblacks

By: Santino Filoso

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After having a few weeks to digest the Redblacks’ inaugural season, we here at Defend the R thought it was fitting to have a conversation and break down the team’s performance by position.

Quarterback:

@RedBlackGade: While Burris certainly didn’t get a lot of help from his teammates or offensive co-ordinator, he simply didn’t live up to his contract and I agree that for 400k, he needed to be better. Burris showed flashes but it seemed like every game there were at least 3-4 massive under/over-throws that just looked horrible. It was also disappointing not to see him run more, he looked hesitant to take off when the pocket broke down, but to be fair to him it broke down nearly every play. On the other hand, it’s hard for any QB to look good when his team has over 50 drops, that’s like two full games of completions, plus he was sacked once every ten times he dropped back. Doesn’t mean he gets  a pass for his performance but you can’t ignore those stats, hard to see any QB thriving with dealing with issues like that. Lastly I found it interesting that the only time Burris really seemed to get into a groove this year was when he was in the no huddle, calling plays himself. In terms of other QBs, I don’t think it’s possible to judge DeMarco as he had so few snaps before tearing his knee. O’Brien didn’t impress me. Yes he seemed to make some big TD throws and I do like his willingness to toss the deep ball, but if you go back and look at them most of those long TDs were actually short passes that turned into huge gains when receivers made guys miss. Obviously he didn’t get a ton of reps either but I thought he looked a bit uncomfortable in the pocket when faced with pressure and had a worrying habit or making the wrong read and tossing interceptions at bad times. Maybe it’s just rookie growing pains but his stat line of 2 TDs with 5 INTs and a 53% completion rate don’t scream QB of the future to me.

@ottroughriders: Yes, there are lots of reasons why Henry Burris struggled this year – play-calling, young receiving corps, dropped balls, weak offensive line – but we need to be careful not to deflect all the blame for those reasons. Burris was, quite frankly, a massive bust on the field. The $400k+ future Hall of Fame QB was just plain bad. Over an 18-game schedule, you have to expect a guy with his pedigree would be the difference in a game or two. He wasn’t. While there were decent drives or quarters here and there, on the whole we saw too many over/under-thrown balls and an unwillingness to use his feet. For a 39-year old, he can still move a little bit, but generally seemed unwilling to do so. For everything he does for the team off the field, I’m still ok with the Burris signing. He is an unbelievable ambassador for the league/team/city. But I also don’t think it’s unfair to question whether or not he can still hack it as a starting QB. Lots of evidence this year that perhaps he cannot. Hard to say too much about any of our other QBs, since none of them got much significant time in the field. Thomas DeMarco was lost to an ACL tear early on and Danny O’Brien’s reps were little more than spot duty. What we saw from both was a spark here and there, but nothing to hang your hat on. Since the season became a write-off fairly early, I still don’t understand why the coaching staff didn’t give O’Brien a full game’s reps.

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Running Back:

@ottroughriders: Shame how things turned out for Chevon Walker. Not just the injury or the fact he was badly under-utilized, but in some ways also the emergence of guys like Jon Williams and Jeremiah Johnson. Training camp 2015 could be a real dogfight. I harken back to the Redblacks 4th game of the season vs Hamilton at McMaster University (great little stadium, by the way). In taking to a couple of Ticats fans who spoke highly of Chevy, they were also quick to point out that he wasn’t great between the tackles. Perhaps coincidentally, after an explosive start, it was pretty much from that game forward that Walker (and the rest of the offense) struggled. Shame we only got to see Williams play a couple games in a row between injuries, but boy did he make an impression! He pretty much single-handedly got us win #2 vs Winnipeg, showing an ability to get the tough yards and out-run people to the outside. Fingers crossed for a full recovery. The sample size was even smaller on Johnson, but seemed to be some similarities between him and Williams. Wonder if that two-headed monster backfield would work? If nothing else, we’re at least pretty sure we now have one solid offensive position of depth at RB.

@RedBlackGade: Injuries, injuries and more injuries. It seemed like every time one of our backs got into a groove he got hurt. Does R-Nation even remember Chevon Walker? The Redblacks had seven different guys tote the rock this season but the ones who really stuck out to me where Williams, Johnson and Finch…in that order. Jonathan Williams especially won me over with this tough, no nonsense running. Jeremiah Johnson made the most of the few carries he got and Finch seemed to show a burst that the others lacked, despite his small stature. With Walker, Williams and Johnson all moving off major injuries it’ll be interesting to see who emerges as the lead dog of this pack next training camp. I also think having a new offensive co-ordinator will work wonders as Gibson had a habit of forgetting to run the ball. In a perfect world I’d like to see Williams or Johnson as our main guys to wear defences down with Walker and Finch subbing in for explosive/passing plays.

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Receivers:

@RedBlackGade: The receivers this season were easily the most disappointing aspect of the team. Though they finished the year on a strong note, Ottawa lost a number of close games due to drops and guys who didn’t know where to line up or who ran the wrong routes. Losing Kierrie Johnson to injury was a big blow as he seemed to be the only guy with real deep threat speed. I thought 2nd round pick Scott Macdonell excelled every time he was called upon, which was rarely. I really didn’t understand why he sat on the bench while a guy like Matt Carter kept getting starts. Carter had some nice catches but it seemed like every catch was followed up a drop. Marcus Henry was pretty frustrating too. Though he led the team in receptions, aside from one big game against the Ticats he disappeared for long stretches, where was he the last three games of the year? Wallace Miles is another guy who was incredibly exasperating to watch as a fan. Miles seemed to have multiple drops per game, yet always hauled in at least one deep circus catch every game. I don’t know if it was an attention issue or what but if he could catch half the passes thrown his way he’d been an all-star. Lastly guys like Jamill Smith and Dobson Collins didn’t do much to impress though they didn’t have a ton of opportunity either. Eddie Poole only played the last game of the season, despite being on the practice roster all year, and looked very good, but it’s hard to judge him based on a single start.

@ottroughriders: The receiver position has been identified by many as the weakest position on the 2014 Redblacks. In particular, the WR corps took a lot of heat for an abnormal number of drops, especially in the first half of the season. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some people to be excited about. An arm injury in Hamilton ended Kierrie Johnson’s season after 3+ games. To that point, Johnson was the closest thing to a game-breaker among receivers, notably hauling in the Burris long bomb that made the game-winning field goal in our magical home opener possible. Khalil Paden, added to the active roster around mid-season, quietly put together a strong year. Paden showed an ability to make the easy catches and the tough catches – something few others did. Don’t think there’s any question he’ll be back in 2015. Canadian Scott MacDonnell showed quite well in his limited opportunity in 2014. Among his 13 catches was a memorable catch-and-run first career TD at home against the Alouettes in October. Big body with nice hands. Hope to see him get more looks next season.

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Offensive Line:

@RedBlackGade: If the receivers were the biggest let down, the offensive line is a close second. Led by Jon Gott, the offensive line struggled in pass protection all season, allowing the QB to be sacked once every ten drop backs, a dismal stat for the group in charge of setting the tone. It routinely seemed like a jail break when Burris or O’Brien dropped back to pass and heavy pressure normally resulted in incomplete passes, sacks and turnovers. It’s hard to ask any QB to be accurate when he never gets a chance to set his feet. Nate Menkin was brought in to help anchor the line but ended up being a bust. Ottawa native Nolan MacMillan was thrown into the fire as a rookie but had the chance to play through his growing pains, hopefully the experience he earned helps improve his game going forwards. Late season addition Colin Kelly looked like a good fit at tackle and will probably be back next year. For all the struggles the offensive line had passing, they thrived on running plays, routinely knocking defences back on their heels as they pounded the ball between the tackles. Unfortunately the run game was often abandoned which meant that the hogs up front didn’t get a chance to tee off on defenders as much as they probably would’ve liked. Along with WRs, you’d have to think GM Marcel Desjardins will put in a call to every quality OL on the market this off-season.

@ottroughriders: No doubt, this group took a beating this year – both on the field and among the fan base. The key to any championship-calibre CFL team is a strong offensive line, and that means Non-Import/National/Canadian depth – something the Redblacks simply do not have yet. O-line weakness had to be a known concern coming into the season. And knowing that, one would have expected an offense designed to limit the damage. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and cost Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line coach Mine Gibson his job. Far too much of the playbook had Burris flat-footed in the shotgun as opposed to moving his feet and improvising. Have to think Ottawa will add 2-3 OL pieces via the draft or free agency.

Defensive Line:

@RedBlackGade: Maybe the backbone of the team. The defensive line was very good on most nights, both at containing the run and putting pressure on the QB. Keith Shologan, Zack Evans and Justin Capicciotti all had break out years and being Canadians, were ratio breakers. Mid-season addition Kalonji Kashama came on strong and is another Canadian who seems poised to be an impact player. Fan favourite Moton Hopkins is a free agent and it’ll be interesting to see if he’s brought back. This already strong group figures to get a boost with the return of Justin Phillips, who was lost very early this season. Though this group is already very deep, don’t be surprised if Desjardins brings in a pass rush specialist.

@ottroughriders: Very encouraging and the Canadian content is huge. Capicciotti was the biggest revelation of the group, taking home the top Canadian of the week award not once but twice in 2014. Nice to see that both of our 2013 red shirt DL draft picks – Kashama and Connor Williams – saw action this season. Props to Desjardins on that. Wonder if Kashama might be that future specialist to put the fear in opposing QBs?

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Linebackers:

@ottroughriders: Some amazing stories out of this group: Brown was found at an open tryout prior to the season, Simmons started the season on the practise roster, and “Crazy Legs” Pruneau was so good as a rookie he made veteran TJ Hill, a key free agent signing and then-defensive team captain, expendable by early August. If there was an award for the CFL’s top Canadian rookie (and shouldn’t there be?), Pruneau would have a new trophy for his collection. His performance has definitely made Desjardins’ draft day wheeling and dealing look like the work of genius.

@RedBlackGade: Losing veteran Anton MacKenzie during the pre-season should have been devastating, but thanks to a strong play from a group of young players, (Travis Brown, Jasper Simmons and Antoine Pruneau) a perceived weakness was actually a strength. I loved watching all of these guys play, especially Pruneau who seemed to always be around the ball and Simmons with his knack for making the big play when it was needed to get the defence off the field. It’s telling that Simmons was the Redblacks choice for team MOP and I really thought Pruneau had a shot at being the Eastern Rookie of the Year. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next season with a healthy MacKenzie and guys like Damaso Munoz and David Hinds pushing for more playing time. With a glut of talented LBs and only so many snaps to go around, it’ll be tough to keep them all happy but that’s a good problem to have.

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Secondary:

@ottroughriders: An up-and-down year for this group that featured a pile of CFL rookies, including Eddie Elder, Brandon McDonald, Abdul Kanneh, Jermaine Robinson and Brandyn Thompson. Inconsistency was to be expected for players getting their first taste of the nuances of the Canadian game. Gavins was maybe the best example of feast or famine – great some nights, pretty awful a few other nights. Seemed to get called for an unusually high number of penalties. Kanneh came on strong late in the season,  pulling down 3 INTs. Sick dreads, too. Veteran Jovon Johnson had a solid, if unspectacular year. His leadership will be an increasingly important asset. A year’s experience will do this squad well. I expect to see lots of familiar faces back in 2015.

@RedBlackGade: Agreed that this group had a roller coaster kind of year. Brandyn Thompson was the most consistent guy in the group and showed a nose for the ball. Once he became a regular in the line up I thought Abdul Kanneh played well for the most part, though did he did often get flagged for PI. I loved Jermaine Robinson’s game, he was aggressive and lowered the boom a few times on guys coming over the middle, but for some reason was a healthy scratch for a number of games. As you said Gavins had an up and down year. After being torched his first game he responded nicely and had a good stretch where he made a number of plays, though late in the season he seemed to regress. As for Jovon Johnson, I was honestly a bit underwhelmed. While he certainly did bring leadership to the group and was great with fans off the field, he didn’t make any big splash plays. On the other hand you could easily argue that if you don’t notice a DB it’s a good thing as he’s not being torched, so there’s that too. The main thing to keep in mind with this group is their youth, the experience they gained in their first year in the CFL should pay off in shades next season.

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General Manager:

@ottroughriders: For GM, positives were the impact of 2013 & 2014 draft picks in the first season – if Desmarais dressed/played, that would’ve made 7 that saw action. Acquiring Gott and drafting the best rookie (Pruneau) at #4 is a major coup as well. The negatives were not signing a significant WR (although partial credit for chasing hard at Dressler) and not jumping at Messam when he came available. Some argue that the team gave up on Paris Jackson too soon but I don’t think I agree, he obviously didn’t impress the coaches either.

@RedBlackGade: I think Desjardins did a fantastic job this year. At the time I was skeptical of trading the 1st overall pick away for Gott but in hindsight I think it was a good move. Also how can you not love swapping the perennial under performing Kevin Glenn for Pruneau? It’s not often that a GM gets the better of Wally Buono in a trade but Desjardins can brag that he did. I don’t fault Desjardins for not bringing in a top WR because there simply wasn’t anyone available. Plus, when one did hit the market, he offered the farm. The only thing that confused me a bit was the constant transactions bringing in more defensive linemen and linebackers, you’d have thought we’d have brought in more offensive lineman and receivers for looks as that was where we were weak but maybe there just wasn’t anyone out there.

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What do you think? Who stood out to you and what positions need to be upgraded?

Mike Gibson Makes History

By: Santino Filoso

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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?

@RedBlackGade

Redblacks Recap: Ottawa goes out with a whimper

By: Santino Filoso

If you look closely, you can count every Argo fan on one hand
If you look closely, you can count every Argo fan on one hand

On Friday night, the Redblacks inaugural season game to an end in the soulless stadium once known as Sky Dome. An Ottawa team playing for nothing but pride took on an Argos squad fighting for their playoff lives in front of the biggest home crowd of the year (roughly 19,000) and two dozen members of R-Nation who made the trek down the 401. Ultimately Toronto jumped out to a quick lead and the Redblacks never recovered. With the loss Ottawa finishes the year with a 2-16 record while the Argos playoff hopes now rest on the outcome of the Montreal/Hamilton game on Saturday.

Pre-game:

– Toronto media felt it fitting to publicly bash the Redblacks and their players, even going so far as to advise the Argos to rest key players and not try hard as they’d win anyways. Said media outlet barely deserves to hold the title of “News” and rhymes with run.

– Teams pay tribute to Canada’s fallen soldiers with poppy decals on each player’s helmet

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– The Redblacks come out for their warmups wearing their Signature Looks instead of their normal white road uniforms

– After three botched coin flip attempts, the Redblacks finally win the toss and chose to receive

1st Quarter:

– Ottawa opens with a trick play as Roy Finch (#19) laterals across the field to Antoine Pruneau (#6) who picks up 31 yards on the return

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– Despite starting on their own 46, the Redblacks quickly go two and out after a short Jeremiah Johnson (#27) run, an offside penalty and an overthrow

– Brandyn Thompson (#25) blows up Toronto RB Steve Slaton as he reaches for an over throw, but the Argos made it look easy as back up QB Trevor Harris picks apart the Redblacks secondary. Soft coverage + weak tackling = an Argo touchdown

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-Henry² (Marcus Henry #16) wipes out his own first down catch by starting the play offside and on the next play Henry Burris (#1) panics in the pocket and tosses a pass right into Argo DL Tristan Okpalaugo’s hands who returns it to Ottawa’s 3 yard line. Burris 14th pick of the year might also be his worst pass of the season

– Chad Owens converts one play later with a 3 yard TD pass, Argos led 14-0 after 7 minutes of play

– Danny “Boy” O’Brien (#9) enters the game and hands off to Johnson for a 10 yard gain, but that’s quickly wiped out by a holding call on Jon “Dangerbeard” Gott (#63)

– Following an incompletion and Scott Macdonell (#83) 6 yard catch, Brett Maher (#3) punts for Ottawa

– The Argos drive down the field but Abdul Kanneh (#14) intercepts a deep ball in the end zone for a touchback

– Redblacks do nothing on offence going two and out for the 4th time in the quarter

2nd Quarter:

– Swayze Waters 39 yard FG makes it 17-0

– A promising drive that starts with a 19 yard romp from Johnson and a  6 yard catch from Macdonell ends when O’Brien is sacked on second down

Johnson was a threat, both times OC Mike Gibson decided to give him the ball
Johnson was a threat, both times OC Mike Gibson decided to give him the ball

– Chad Owens has an impressive 7 yard loss on the punt return

– The Redblacks’ defence flex their muscles and force a quick two and out

– A one yard loss on a run by Johnson and an O’Brien pass aimed at the top of the CN Tower Skypod leads to another two and out

– Ottawa’s defence bends but doesn’t break, eventually forcing a punt

– Showing off a lack of arm strength, O’Brien’s slow toss across the length of the field is picked off

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Not exactly what the coaches were hoping for

– After a Keith “I Like Hittin’ People” Shologan’s (#74) 2nd down sack, the Argos settle for a 22 yard FG

– Teams trade two and outs as both offences forgo the run and toss incompletions

– With 55 seconds left, O’Brien strings together his longest drive of the day, hitting Wallce “Boom or Bust” Miles (84), Macdonell and Finch for gains of 6, 10 and 10 yards. The half ends with a flag for unnecessary roughness on the Argos

Half-time:

R-Nation decides drinking socially won’t do and breaks out the heavy stuff because stats don’t lie

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U, G, L, Y, you ain’t got no alibi, you UGLY!

3rd Quarter:

– The Redblacks break the shutout when Maher’s 63 yard kick off is downed in the end zone for a single

– The Argos move the chains once before being forced to punt

– Different QB = same result as Burris re-enters the game but goes nowhere fast with an incompletion and sack

– Harris picks apart the secondary for a few easy first downs though the Argos are eventually forced to punt

– Burris puts together a few completions hitting Miles on back to back plays for gains of 11 and 12 yards, and newcomer Eddie Poole (#8) for a 9 yard gain. Burris also uses his legs to scramble for a 10 yard gain as the pocket collapses but the drive stalls when an open Matt Carter (#85) drops a deep pass. Maher’s punt sails 54 yards through the end zone for a rouge

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– The Redblacks defense continues to do it’s part with yet another two and out

4th Quarter:

– Ottawa finally enters Toronto’s red zone when Poole makes a great adjustment to haul in a  to a 42 yard bomb. A few plays later the refs miss a blatant face mask and following two straight incomplete end zone passes the Redblacks settle for a 22 yard FG

– The Argos answer with a 45 yard FG of their own to take a 23-5 lead

After an incredible first half, Harris cooled off
After an incredible first half, Harris cooled off

– On second down Burris is sacked for 10 yard loss so once again Ottawa punts

– Giving the Argos nothing, the defence forces another Argo two and out

The defence was much improved in the 2nd half
The defence was much improved in the 2nd half

– With 4:23 left in the game and O’Brien comes in at QB for the Redblacks

– Khalil Paden (#13) makes a great adjustment (and a few Argos miss) on a 77 yard catch and run, the longest play of Ottawa’s season. The great field position is wasted when O’Brien’s pass on 3rd down falls incomplete, leading to a turnover on downs

Ottawa Redblacks v Toronto Argonauts

– Argos go two and out

– Jamill Smith (#15)  fields the punt and decides to run backwards which predictably leads to a huge loss

– O’Brien’s 3rd down pass skips off the turf causing another turnover on downs

– The players on the defensive side of the ball look angry as they continue to punish Argonaut players with big hits and force a two and out

– Time expires as O’Brien alternates between throwing to nobody and hitting Patrick Lavoie (#81) for short gains

Final score: 23-5 for the team named after a band of mythic Greek heros

Key Stats:

O’Brien went 13 of 25 for 161 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT

Burris went 7 of 13 for 94 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT

Johnson had 2 carries for 19 yards

Paden made 2 catches for 89 yards

Justin Capicciotti (#93) made 5 tackles and 1 sack

Maher punted 9 times for 395 yards

Closing Thoughts:

The Redblacks season came to an end with a game that epitomized all of the things that have plagued the team this season; poor QB play, unoriginal play calling, untimely flags and a defence that bent but didn’t break. Leading up to the game, Head Coach Rick Campbell had talked of wanting to give O’Brien a good number of reps to see how he’d react and I think it’s safe to say he was at best, disappointing. O’Brien struggled all night, making a number of bad throws and tossing an ugly interception that seemed to show a lack of arm strength. Worse, he appeared to crumble in the face of pressure, often running backwards as he threw the ball out of bounds. That being  said, Burris wasn’t much better as he also threw an ugly interception but the only time the Redblacks strung together any kind of drive was with him under centre. Johnson and Finch ran hard, all FOUR times they were called up to run the ball. Yet again, OC Mike Gibson completely abandoned the run game, proving that without a doubt he should be the first person out the door when the team starts handing out pink slips. The offensive line had a terrible game, failing to protect either of the QBs, getting manhandled by Toronto’s front 7 and failing to pick up the blitz. In terms of WRs Paden had one beautiful catch and run and Poole looked very fast, though his QBs rarely had time to get him the ball. Macdonell showed some flashes early but after the first quarter never got any more playing time. Henry², Ottawa’s leading WR, was invisible, completly disappearing and rarely getting a look. I think it’s safe to safe that the position with the highest turnover in the off-season will be the WR group, as too many guys simply didn’t get it done. I know I’ve harped it him a lot, but it’s because he’s deserved it, once again Gibson’s play calling set the team up for failure. When your offensive line is struggling you need to adapt your calls and help them out, by calling quick passes with shorter drops and by pounding the rock. Calling 4 runs in a game is criminal, especially when guys like Johnson and Finch had proven to be highly effective downhill runners. Gibson’s vanilla offence was on fully display in the red zone, as he called the exact same corner fade route three times, and every time it was either over thrown or broken up. Why not a screen, or a draw, or a quick slant?

If there’s anything to take solace in after this frustrating season, it’s the Redblacks’ defence. On another night that the offence was a no show, the players on the defensive side of the ball recovered from a weak opening half to limit the Argos to a single FG in the final 30 minutes of play. Damaso Munoz (#45), Thompson and Capicciotti lead the way with 5 tackles each though guys like Jasper Simmons (#31) and Pruneau also looked strong. The biggest issue for the defence in the first half was that they simply couldn’t get any kind of pressure on Harris, allowing him to sit back and torch a secondary who had one of it’s weaker games. From a fans perspective is was nice to see the defence throwing some crushing hits and playing angry, it really stood out in contrast to an offence that never showed any sense of urgency. Going forward there’s a number of strong pieces for the team to build around and if defences do win championships then the Redblacks are headed in the right direction.

Ottawa’s special teams tonight were spectacular. Maher made the field goals he was supposed to and punted well. Great special teams coverage on the league’s most dangerous returner, ChadOwens, meant that for the majority of the night Ottawa won the field position battle. The opening play lateral to Pruneau was well executed and a throwback to the successful tricks plays used so effectively earlier this season. Smith really struggled on punt return, too often going backwards and giving up a ton of yards in a vain attempt to look for an opening, by this point in the year he should know better.

The Redblacks closed out their season with a whimper, barely putting up a fight against a desperate Argo team. Apparently numerous players read the reports from the Toronto media bashing them yet that emotion clearly didn’t carry over into the game as this one was out of reach early in the first quarter. Though the Redblacks season can be described as nothing but a disappointment, the future seems bright with many building blocks already in place. Guys like Scott Macdonell, Antoine Pruneau, Jasper Simmons, and Justin Capicciotti are poised to have big roles going forward. The real MOP this season was Ottawa’s fans, who sold out 9 straight home games, packing TD Place with 24,000+ despite their team’s record. The support will carry over to next season but expectations will be raised, the team cannot hide behind the expansion label going forwards. GM Marcel Desjardins figures to be busy this off-season addressing weaknesses such as the offensive line and the WR corps and perhaps adding a few QBs to the mix. Who do you think the Redblacks should target in FA and in the draft?

@RedBlackGade

Redblacks Recap: Ottawa Implodes as Ticats Claw Out Win

By: Santino Filoso

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On a cold, windy, Halloween night, the Ticats rolled into town for the Redblacks final home game of the season. As has come to be expected, R-Nation packed TD Place, selling it out for the 9th straight time and proving once and for all that Ottawa IS a football town. Though the home fans were treated to a much more exciting game than the usual defensive struggle they normally see, ultimately the Redblacks lost once again.

Pre-game:

– In yet another classy move, OSEG continues to link Ottawa’s storied football history to the present by renaming and dedicating the press box to long time Rough Rider announcer Ernie Calcutt

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– R-Nation goes all out to get into the Halloween spirit

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Hamilton Tiger-Cats v Ottawa RedBlacks

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– Good to see that PA announcer Mike. Sutherland is recovering well from his recent plastic surgery

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– Players gather at centre field to salute the fans, who once again do their part, selling out TD Place for the 9th straight time

– Ottawa wins the coin toss to move their toss record to 5-14 on the year

1st Quarter:

– Roy Finch (#19) returns the opening kick off 38 yards to start the game

– Ottawa goes two and out after FB John “Boom” Delahunt (#49) makes a 4 yard catch and a deep pass for Matt “Matty Ice” Carter (#85) is broken up

– A beautiful punt by Brett Maher (#3) and great coverage pins the Ticats inside their own 10

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– Jovon “The Vet” Johnson (#2) comes roaring in on the corner blitz and brings down Collaros for his second sack of the year

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– Catches by Carter and Wallace “Boom or Bust” Miles (#84) help the Redblacks march into the red zone but the drive stalls when Burris is sacked and overthrows an open Henry² (Marcus Henry #16) in the end zone

– Maher pushes his 29 yard FG wide right but gets the single so Ottawa takes a 1-0 lead

– Heavy pressure forces Collaros to throw an incompletion on 2nd down and the Ticats go two and out

– Danny “Boy” O’Brien (#9) enters the game and immediately hits Henry² for a 20 yard gain

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– The Redblacks cover 86 yards in 7 plays for a touchdown on Jeremiah “Flow” Johnson’s (#27) back as he gets it done with hard running and a beautiful executed screen. O’Brien is shaken up on the drive after being levelled while completing a pass

Jeremiah Johnson, Colin Kelly

2nd Quarter:

– On 2nd down, Travis Brown (#43) and Jermaine Robinson (#32) meet at the QB and sack Collaros for a big loss, Ticats come away with nothing after a long drive

sack

– O’Brien is back in at QB and Johnson takes off for 21 yards. The drive is cut short when Finch catches a short pass and fumbles. Ticats knock it out of bounds, recover and take over at Ottawa’s 29

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– Hamilton makes the most of the turnover two plays later when back to back run plays lead to a touchdown

– The short kick off is fielded by 6 foot 6 inch DL Marlon Smith (#98) who actually looks surprisingly smooth as he scurries for a decent return

Defensive lineman? Or Dante Hall in disguise?
Defensive lineman? Or Dante Hall in disguise?

– The QB rotation continues and Burris finds Carter three times on the drive for gains of 19, 11 and finally 34 yards for a TD as Carter carves up the Ticats secondary like a pumpkin

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– All the energy and momentum is sucked out of TD Place when Brandon Banks takes the ensuing kick off for 103 yards for a touchdown

– After a 7 yard run by Johnson, Burris scrambles for his life, barely avoids the sack and throws the ball away

– Newcomer David Hinds (#20) is flagged for roughing the passer when he slightly nudges Collaros

– With no one open and under heavy pressure, Collaros forced to throw the ball away on 2nd down

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– O’Brien takes the reigns of the offence and after hiting Delahunt for a 15 yard gain and  Johnson for anther 10,  an overthrow is picked off and returned 46 yards

– Justin Capicciotti’s (#93) ninth sack of the year is an 18 yard loss and on 3rd and 33 the Ticats punt

– Jamill Smith’s 28 yard punt return is wiped out by an objectionable conduct call on Ottawa’s bench

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– Johnson runs for 6 before O’Brien takes a knee to end the half

Jeremiah Johnson

– Redblacks lead 15-14 after 30 min

Half-time:

– Big Joe’s anthem plays

– This guy wins best costume and $1000

3rd Quarter:

– Ticats get the ball and march down the field thanks to sloppy arm tackles and flags. Capicciotti gets his 2nd sack of the night but Hamilton takes the lead with a 22 yard FG

– With Burris in at QB the offence puts together one of it’s best drives of the night; Johnson picks up 28 yards on two runs, Delahunt hauls in an 11 yard pass, Smith gains 9 yards on sweep, Burris gives the Redblacks a fresh set of downs after a QB sneak and Johnson caps the drive off in style, juking 25 yards into the end zone, making Ticat defenders look silly

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– The defence flexes it’s muscles quickly forcing another Ticat two and out

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– O’Brien has a series to forget as he fumbles the handoff on first down before throwing a pick six on the next play. Ticats lead 24-22

– With Burris in at QB, the Redblacks go two and out following two incompletions as OC Mike Gibson decides that running the ball isn’t a good idea in a tight, one score game

– Brown gets the ball back for Ottawa when he absolutely blows up Terrell Sinkfield and forces a fumble that is scooped up by DL Moton “The Motivator” Hopkins (#95)

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– Johnson runs for a short gain and Burris is sacked on 2nd down. A bonehead after the whistle flag on OL Colin Kelly (#67) pushes the Redblacks back an extra 15 yards

4th Quarter:

– Hamilton RB Mossis Madu wobbles off the field after getting walloped by a trio of Ottawa defenders

– Ticats increase their lead with a 28 yard FG

– Miles season is summed up in a nutshell as he drops an easy pass before making two tough catches over the middle for gains of 19 and 12 yards respectively. Maher’s 42 yard FG makes it 27-25

– Smith blows up a run for a loss and Collaros throws an incompletion as the Ticats go two and out

– Inside the shadow of his own goal posts, Burris is sacked and then proceeds to show that anything O’Brien can do he can do better by throwing his own pick six

Henry Burris

– HC Rick Campbell decides to keep O’Brien on the bench and Burris trots back out (after the game we learn that O’Brien was hurt)

– Ottawa is saved by the flag when a sack is wiped out by a roughing the passer call

– Carter gets way behind the defence but a sure fire touchdown falls incomplete, rolling off his fingertips

– Khalil Paden (#13), Patrick Lavoie (#81), Miles and Carter all make catches to get the Redblacks into the red zone but OC Mike Gibson decides to run the ball on 2nd down which results in a 4 yard loss

On 3rd and 7, down by 9 with 1:47 left and on the Ticat’s 19 yard line, Campbell chooses NOT to kick the FG to cut the lead to 6 and instead Burris’ pass is picked off in the end zone

– Hamilton strings together a few first downs to run out the clock

Final score: 34-25

Key stats:

Burris went 15 of 22 for 222 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs

O’Brien went 6 of 10 for 83 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs

Johnson had 17 carries for 131 yards and 2 TDs

Carter made 5 catches 81 yards and 1 TD

Capicciotti made 4 tackles and 2 sacks

Maher punted 4 times for 180 yards

Closing Thoughts:

Once again the Redblacks take two steps forward and two steps back. It’s hard to win CFL games and it’s damn near impossible to win when you have 5 turnovers (with 21 points off them), give up a 103 yard kick off TD return and throw two pick sixes.

The dual QB attack was effective early but seemed to hinder both QBs as the game worn on, as neither one seemed to be able to settle into a rhythm, both overthrowing receivers and tossing interceptions. A case could be made for either QB having the better game but in the end neither did enough to protect the ball. The run game was extremely effective as Jeremiah Johnson tore through the Ticats like a knife through hot butter. Inexplicably, in spite of the run game rolling on all cylinders, OC Mike Gibson sometimes got away from the run which lead to two and outs. The WRs were led by Miles and Carter and once again though Carter had a strong game, ultimately he will be remembered for the late drop when he was wide open. Disappointingly, promising rookie Scott Macdonell (#83) never saw the field, despite proving his value in recent weeks. The shuffled offensive line looked very good when run blocking, opening up huge running lanes for Johnson to exploit but failed to pick up the blitz in pass protection several times, giving up sacks in crucial situations. Mike Gibson chose not to take advantage of Hamilton’s aggressiveness with bland play calling, calling only one screen and no draws or misdirection plays. Still, it was one of the team’s better offensive performances on the year, though much of the good work they did was undone with interceptions and fumbles.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Redblacks made the Ticats grind out every drive. Collaros was under duress for the whole game but often hung in the pocket just long enough to take a hit and deliver the pass for a first down gain. The Redblacks routinely blew up plays in the backfield for losses, setting up 2nd and long and allowing them to blitz and tee off on Collaros. Though they didn’t score, the unit generated another turnover and bailed out the offence after O’Brien’s first pick, sacking Collaros to push the Ticats out of FG range. Technically the defence only gave up 13 points with 14 of the Ticats 34 coming off interceptions taken to the house and 7 from a kick return.

Special teams again winded up costing Ottawa big time. As has been the case all season long, Maher punted extremely well but shanked a short FG, points that would’ve come in handy late in the game. The most glaring error was the team surrendering yet another long kick return touchdown, the 6th return touchdown given up by the Redblacks this year.

Head Coach Rick Campbell will take some flak this week for another puzzling decision. Late in the game on 3rd and 7 when down by 9, he chose to forgo the FG and instead go for the end zone. If the Redblacks kick a field goal at that point they extend the game, keep hope alive and give their offence another shot. Instead, by choosing to go for it, the game was effectively over the second the Redblacks didn’t convert that play. As has happened the past few weeks, Campbell looked like a rookie coach simply blowing an important decision late in the game. Clearly he’s still learning how to properly manage a game but as a fan it’s much more frustrating to see a coach make a mistake than a player.

Looking back, this year will be a disappointment but it’s important to remember that this was Ottawa’s 10th loss by 10 points or less this season. The Redblacks may have lost 15 games but they were almost never blown out. Thankfully their two wins came at home and it was fantastic to see the community of Ottawa embracing their new team, selling out every home game. Many of the players on the team played their last game in front of R-Nation tonight and they’ll look back on their time in the Nation’s Capital with fond memories. Next up for the Redblacks is a date with the Argos in the soulless stadium once known as the Sky Dome. Ottawa will potentially have the opportunity to knock the Argos out of playoffs and with jobs on the line you can be sure the team will bring their A game.

@RedBlackGade

P.S. Hats off to the team for rewarding loyal fans by having players literally give the shirts off their backs to fans after the game

– All images via CFL.ca, Ottawaredblacks.com and the Ottawa Citizen

Redblacks Recap: Ottawa Wins Even if the Redblacks Lose

By: Santino Filoso

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On an emotional Friday night, and on the first big gathering since Wednesday’s shooting, Ottawa came together as a community to begin healing through the power of sports. The Redblacks played an inspired game, buoyed by the energy and emotion of an 8th straight sell out crowd at TD Place but unfortunately still couldn’t find a way to finish, losing to the Alouettes and dropping  their record to 2-14  on the year.

Pre-game:

The vibe around the city and build up to the game was simply outstanding with players and fans alike aware of its significance

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The world’s biggest Canadian flag (on loan from the Ticats) is displayed across the field as Redblacks and Alouette players stand side by side during the singing of O Canada

Burris’ makes an incredible pre-game speech to the offence

1st Quarter:

– The Redblacks get the ball to start and move it with ease. Henry² (Marcus Henry #16) makes a 22 yard catch before Roy Finch (#19) and Jonathan Williams (#23) pound the rock on three straight plays picking up 5, 10 and 8 yards. Patrick Lavoie (#81) gets in on the fun with his own 10 yard catch and Henry² caps the drive off in style hauling in a 6 yard TD pass

Montreal Alouettes v Ottawa RedBlacks

– With his 1st passing touchdown at home in 94 possessions, Henry Burris (#1) moves into 3rd place all time, passing Ron Lancaster with 334 career passing TDs.

– Montreal responds with a long drive of their own, moving the chains twice with big second down catches by SJ Green. The Als appear to settle for a FG attempt when Jerrell Gavins (#24) nearly gets a pick six from his own end zone but Montreal coach Tom Higgins challenges for pass interference

– About 2.7 seconds after the challenge flag hits the ground, the league overturns the call, giving the Als a first down on Ottawa’s 1 yard line. Short yardage specialist Tanner “One Yard Ain’t No Thang” Marsh wastes no time punching it in on the QB sneak to tie the game at 7

– A heavy dose of Williams bulldozing defenders and Finch weaving through would be tacklers allows the Redblacks to march the ball deep into Als territory before the promising drive ends when Burris’ pass is tipped and picked off.

Never a bad call to give this man the ball
Never a bad call to give this man the ball

2nd Quarter:

– A Marlon Smith (#98) sack is wiped out by a pass interference call on Gavins (his second of the night) but continued heavy pressure forces Crompton to throw an incompletion and ensures the Als have to punt

– True to his word, HC Rick Campbell puts Danny “Boy” O’Brien (#9) in for a series and after handing off to Williams for a 4 yard loss, he throws into heavy coverage and his first pass of the night is picked off

The future?
The future?

– Abdul Kanneh (#14) immediately gets Ottawa the ball back with his own interception

– O’Brien comes in at QB again and on the ensuing play William’s leg gets awkwardly twisted as he is pulled down

– After the injury time out Burris re-enters the game and hits Lavoie for a first down gain but his next two passes fall incomplete. Brett Maher’s (#3) beautiful punt pins the Als on their 5 yard line

– A swarming defence nearly get its second interception of the night before forcing a two and out

– Much to R-Nation’s relief Williams re-enters the game, looking no worse for the wear

A sight for sore eyes though he wasn't used in the 2nd half
A sight for sore eyes though he wasn’t used in the 2nd half

– Former Renegade LB Kyries Hebert shows that there’s no place like home as he blows up a screen on 2nd down. Things go from bad to worse when Maher’s punt is blocked

The last active Renegade
The last active Renegade still making plays

– Montreal settles for a 41 yard FG when Antoine “The Phenom” Pruneau (#6) sniffs out the screen for a loss and Keith “I Like Hittin’ People” Shologan (#74) and Justin Capicciotti (#93) meet at the QB, sacking Crompton

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– Backed up by flags, a sack leads to a two and out for the Redblacks

– The defence bends but doesn’t break and the Als eventually kick a 14 yard FG

– With less than a minute left in the game, O’Brien comes back in at QB and hands off to Finch three times in a row

– After 30 minutes, Habs lead 13-7

Half-time:

3rd Quarter:

– Als get the ball to start the second half and two questionable flags on Kanneh, (pass inference and later objectionable conduct) lead directly to a touchdown, 20-7 for the Als

– Burris’ pass hits Henry² right in the hands, but he can’t hang on and instead pops it up for the player with the best name in the CFL, Bear Woods, who picks it off

Burris celebrating the tip drill
“It was right in his hands!”

– Montreal turns the turnover into points with a 47 yard FG

– The Redblacks string together a few first downs courtesy of hard running from Finch and catches by Khalil Paden (#13) and Carlton Mitchell (#88) but the drive stalls when Burris is sacked on 2nd down

– Faced with 3rd and 9 and an inattentive Montreal defence, Maher fakes the punt and passes to Lavoie for a 38 yard gain

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– After an incompletion and yet another sack, Maher splits the uprights with a 21 yard FG to make it 23-10

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4th Quarter:

– Despite losing a shoe, Brandyn Thompson (#25) makes a beautiful play and breaks up a deep pass on 2nd down

– O’Brien gets another series and proceeds to book up with Wallace “Boom or Bust” Miles (#84) on a 44 yard bomb before second round pick Scott Macdonell (#83) makes a catch, splits two defenders and rumbles 58 yards to the house for his first career touchdown. In 2 plays and 56 seconds the Redblacks cover 102 yards.

The first of many
The first of many

– Relentless defensive pressure earns another Alouette two and out

– O’Brien and the offence go two and out but Maher’s coffin corner punt again pins the Als deep

– Pruneau nearly picks off Crompton and on the next play Kanneh forces a fumble which is recovered by Jovon Johnson. Unfortunately and inexplicably the call is overturned after a review when the officials claim the Montreal player was down by contact

– Not satisfied with the bush league ruling or perhaps simply to spite the refs, HC Rick Campbell blows everyone’s mind by challenging the review, asking the refs to take a second look at the play. The review of the review is quickly shot down by the officials who confirm the review

– The Als march down the field in small chunks, chewing up precious clock before eventually punting. Ottawa takes over on their own 10 with 2:31 left in the game

With short pass after short pass, it was death by 1000 cuts for the Redblacks
With short pass after short pass, it was death by 1000 cuts for the Redblacks

– Following a Macdonell 7 yard catch, Burris throws the ball away under heavy pressure. Just like last week, facing 3rd and 3 and down 6 points with 2 min left in the game, HC Rick Campbell chooses to punt and crosses his fingers that his team will get the ball back

– The Redblacks defence shows why it’s the backbone of the team, bailing out their coach by forcing a quick two and out

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– With 1:15 left, on 1st down Burris overthrows Carter on a deep route. On 2nd down the pass is behind Macdonell. With the game on the line and needing 10 yards to keep the drive alive, NOT A SINGLE RECEIVER RUNS PAST THE FIRST DOWN MARKER, so Burris checks down and Macdonell makes a 7 yard catch but can’t get any more.

– Alouettes take over and run out the clock

Final score: 23-17

Key stats:

Burris went 12 of 21 for 110 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs

O’Brien went  3 of 5 for 111 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT

Williams ran 8 times for 50 yards

Macdonell hauled in 8 passes for 73 yards and 1 TD

Simmons made 8 tackles

Maher punted 4 times for 173 yards, averaging 43 yards per kick

Closing thoughts:

It was never really about the game to be honest, in the first major gathering since Wednesday’s tragic events, the football was always going to be secondary. The focus tonight was on Ottawa’s response to tragedy and it rose to the occasion. The Redblacks went out of their way to honour this week’s fallen soldiers and R-Nation did an incredible job singing O Canada for the entire country.

After a dazzling opening drive that made it look easy, the Redblacks failed to move the ball with any kind of consistency as flags and sacks killed numerous drives. Burris started out hot and finally threw a touchdown at home but quickly cooled off with overthrows and drops leading to two and outs. Danny O’Brien got a fair number of reps and after his first pass was picked off he responded in style, covering 102 yards in 2 plays for Ottawa’s second touchdown. Unfortunately Campbell’s flip-flopping between QBs seemed to not only hinder the offence, but also didn’t ride the hot hand as O’Brien was responsible for all the late positive momentum but was on the sidelines for Ottawa’s final two drives. The run game took a big hit when Williams was lost to injury though Finch continued to shine when called upon. No receiver made more than three catches or really stood out other than Scott Macdonell who looks and plays like he belongs. The offensive line had a tough game, failing to provide a clean pocket for the majority of the night and giving up four sacks. Perhaps the most frustrating play of the game was on 3rd and 10 with 45 seconds left. Mike Gibson dialled up a brilliant play that culminated with no receivers running past the first down marker. Kind of a fitting reflection of the Redblacks offensive performance this year. Equally infuriating was the decision to run the ball three straight times to end the first half when we only needed about twenty yards into field goal range.

Defensively the Redblacks more than punched above their weight, repeatedly bailing out an offence that put them in tough positions with five turnovers. Though it didn’t result in many sacks, heavy pressure forced Crompton to rush a number of throws and led to incompletions. Simmons and Pruneau led the a swarming defence with eight and seven tackles respectively. The defence seemed to provide the late spark needed to turn the tide in Ottawa’s favour with a forced fumble, but a blotched review took away the turnover and all the momentum the Redblacks had built up.

Special teams were good as Ottawa clearly won the field position battle. Maher was solid punting, showing off his ability to pin teams deep with accurate corner punts and a perfectly executed fake punt led to a huge first down and a 38 yard gain, and later a field goal. Finch looked dangerous every time he fielded a punt though he always seemed to be one block away from a huge return. Once again the referees were a major factor with more than a few scratching decisions. Both teams were flagged a number of times as a result of sloppy and undisciplined play and what turned out to be a pivotal play in the game was decided by a mind boggling call on a review. Twice Ottawa had reviews go against them, first when a pass interference call lead to Montreal’s first touchdown and second when the refs somehow found enough evidence to overturn a clear fumble, which was the call on the field. There’s no way around the fact that the zebras were a deciding factor in the game tonight, throwing 27 flags for 253 yards, with 14 of those going against Ottawa for 143 yards.

Rick Campbell made a few decisions that will be second guessed, such as his attempt to challenge a challenge, asking for a review of the review and again choosing to punt the ball away when down by a single score with two minutes left in the game. The incredible number of after the whistle penalties reflect poorly on him as it shows a lack of discipline. It’s obvious that certain guys are still buying in and giving their all, but some guys are playing for themselves and stupid, selfish, bonehead plays show that.

Next up for the Redblacks is the final home game of the year on Halloween night against the Hamilton Ticats. Ottawa will be playing for pride and looking to entertain a hopefully 9th straight sell out crowd. Make sure you come out and cheer loudly because it’s your last chance to show the team some love and to put an exclamation mark on our inaugural season.

@RedBlackGade

– All images via CFL.ca and ottawaredblacks.com