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

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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?

READER’S TAKE: Why I don’t like the new Redblacks jerseys

While the large majority are giving the Ottawa Redblacks two enthusiastic thumbs up for their new uniforms, even some of the most loyal Ottawa CFL fans have their gripes. The following comes from Nevill Carney, he of some great Redblacks jerseys concepts and one of the dudes behind the Redblacks Theme Song. Nevill left the following in the comment section of this post and allowed us to re-post here, for your consideration.

Our comments are captured in bold.

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I was looking forward to this unveiling since the name and logo were unveiled a year ago. I cannot describe how bland these look! My heart literally sank as the first pics of the road jersey were released. My first thought: “where is the RED?!” Then, when the home jerseys came out, I was at least happy about them being black.

No doubt the lack of red was surprising. More on that later.

NEGATIVES

– Take away the numbers and logos from the jersey and you have a very dull looking shirt. Very much like the BC Lions home/away set. Fans will have to get numbers put on them to complete the look. (I can say now that Toronto and Edmonton have the best look in the CFL as their arm striping is sharp and creates a sense of movement when on the field)

Pretty common for a football jersey, since the number is such a prominent part of the design.

– Lack of arm striping. For OSEG, who wanted to link to the past Rough Rider teams, I really thought they would have some striping on the arms. The concepts that I had designed a while back were my hopes of what to see.

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Above is Nevill’s last concept. Really sharp, I thought. Great vintage look.

I was also surprised at the lack of striping, although the white jersey does have the more modern take on striping with the black trim on the shoulders & extending all the way down the sides.

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– Away uniform is depressing. It looks like a recoloring of Saskatchewan’s current road whites. Weren’t we trying to get as far away from what the GreenRiders were doing? I despise the white helmet. Stick with ONE black helmet for both uniforms. Establishing your brand in year one is VITAL. Look at the NFL teams; how many have multiple helmets?

In fairness, there are only so many jersey templates a team can use and those are likely determined by Reebok.

As for multiple helmets, I personally love it as a concept and love how the Redblacks white helmet looks.

I have heard the ‘stick with one helmet’ argument a couple times over the last few days, but don’t really get it. If a team can have 3 jerseys, no reason you can’t have multiple helmets. Baseball teams have different home/away/alternate hats, hockey teams often have different home/away helmets. Why not football?

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Odd side note: last year, every West team in the CFL had an alternate helmet (SSK actually had 2). None of the East teams did.

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Weird, eh?

– REDBLACKS plastered under the collar and above the front numbers. For OSEG, a business that has claimed to be supportive of both official languages since Day 1, this was a huge mistake. It now makes the English name of the team dominant over the French. I realize that they have “Rouge et Noir” on the front bumper of the helmet, but fans will not be buying the helmet. In order to offset this, they should have replaced it with “Ottawa.” The Renegades did this and it looked great.

Good point. Could have gone with OTTAWA on the front of both jerseys, or otherwise have REDBLACKS on one and ROUGE ET NOIR on the other. The bumper is a neat feature but also seems like a bit of an afterthought.

POSITIVES

– Sawblade logo on both arms. Nailed it. I was hoping for this and bam. Likely the main reason why I will be buying a home jersey rather than settling on a t-shirt to wear to games.

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– Black home jersey/black helmet. Traditional; enough said.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

– I would have really liked it if the Redblacks took a page from Fury FC and presented options of uniforms for the fans to vote on. This would have made the fans feel included (unlike the choosing of the team name fiasco from last year) and important enough to have a say with where the franchise is headed.

In fairness to OSEG, the ‘Name Our Teams’ campaign wasn’t actually a contest.

I am on the fence with getting one of these but I will for the sake of supporting the team (the home not the terrible away jersey).

C’mon now!

We have a so-so name, a terrific logo and now a “meh” set of uniforms. 1.5/3 for overall branding at this stage from this season ticket holder’s opinion. I can only hope that we have a retro design come to pass and become our regular set.

Not sure if it will be retro, but it sounds like we will definitely have a red third jersey later this summer. In this Ottawa Sun piece writer Aedan Helmer and OSEG president Jeff Hunt tell us:

A red third jersey will be unveiled later in the summer, and while Hunt said they went for the classic look for the home and away duds, “that (third jersey) is going to be different.”

So, that answers the lack of red in the home & away set. But how ‘different’, exactly? We shall see…

Regardless, I’m stoked for kickoff and to have Ottawa return to the CFL regardless of what they are wearing. Go Ottawa!

Thanks Nevill!

@OTTRoughRiders

A closer look at the new Ottawa Redblacks jerseys

For an expansion franchise, the uniform unveiling is pretty much the last major milestone before the games begin. And the Ottawa Redblacks did their unveiling in style, in front of 1,200 season ticket holders at the Ottawa Conference And Event Centre on Tuesday night. We weren’t able to be there in person, but #RNation did a great job bringing us there. Thanks to everyone for the providing the photos below. Hope to eventually source them all properly.

Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at each uniform:

HOME UNIFORM

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ROAD UNIFORM

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That was fun!

My thoughts:

– Very cool that we have different home & away helmets. The traditional black looks great, but I love the white!

– Jersey number font is the same style as we saw at mini-camp, but with an outline. The outline looks fine, but I think I could have worked just as well without a stroke.

– Interesting choice to have red numbers with a white stroke on the home jersey, rather than the opposite. Makes for an overall darker look. Not a bad thing.

– Interesting choice of font for player names. Again, thought they would go with something simpler to balance off the buzz saw-style numbering. But it isn’t too much either. Not my first choice, but it works.

– Would have thought red socks and some red shoulder striping for the home uniform, but again, I don’t mind the ‘black out’ look either.

– The ‘Redblacks’ word mark on the front of the jersey looks a little bigger than what we normally see on a football jersey (though not Montreal big). Also, I would have liked to see one of the jerseys with the ‘Ottawa’ word mark.

– While I’m really not a fan of the ‘flashes’ under the arm on the Sens home & away jerseys, I like the black trim on the Redblacks whites. Especially that it extends to the shoulders. Works very well. Strong look.

– As expected, the entire saw blade Redblacks logo was used on the helmets, as opposed to the R on its own. It looks really good. Perhaps we’ll see the R on its own after a few years?

– Nice looking black striping down the side of the white pant. Completes the white jersey nicely.

– Do we think the black jersey with white pants will work well? Not sure, given the striping on the pants. TBD.

– Hard to see at first, but the Rouge et Noir word mark is actually used on the front ‘bumper’ of the helmet, as pointed out on SportsLogos.net. Here’s a closer look:

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Overall, a great first set of jerseys. Folks worried about plaid design can rest easy. While OSEG opted for a more modern style, they also kept things generally simple. A happy median.

For those who we’re hoping for a red jersey, don’t forget what owner Jeff Hunt had to say a few weeks ago. Don’t think we’ll be waiting too long.

An exciting day, filled with anticipation. As much fun as it was to speculate these last several months, the final product did not disappoint. A great looking uniform. Looking forward to picking up one of each jersey in the very near future.

One final thought: Props to the Redblacks for keeping the new uniform designs completely under wraps. Not a single leak, none of the rumours out there about plaid accents were even close to true and not a single jersey concept was really close to the final product. Nicely done!

@OTTRoughRiders

Hunt hints at possible Redblacks 3rd jersey in year one

A small piece of Redblacks news that may have slipped past most of us, what with the excitement around the sale of home opener ticket packs to the public and the “controversy” around the naming of the Redblacks mascot Big Joe Mufferaw, was OSEG President Jeff Hunt dropping a hint (or pretty much confirming?) a third jersey for the Redblacks in year one. In an interview with TSN 1200 (6-minute mark), Hunt indicates that home and away jerseys will be released in mid-May, likely followed by a third jersey release in the fall!

For a jersey/logo enthusiast (geek?) like myself, this was nearly as welcome as hearing the Redblacks, still over three months away from kick-off, are already pushing 13,000 season ticket holders. A third jersey in the inaugural season is a bit of a surprise, and a welcome one at that.

And now the big question: what might this jersey look like? A couple of things come to mind immediately. First off, a fall release of a third jersey in the CFL would most likely be centred around the team’s Labour Day Classic game. And what better occasion for a vintage jersey than a LDC game.

I’m thinking there might be some giddy former Rough Rider fans in Ottawa in September!

This move makes a lot of sense for the Redblacks. Releasing three jerseys at one time seems like overkill. And if the third jersey is indeed a vintage Rough Riders look, Hunt and OSEG will have once again proven that they get it. They understand this fan base and how important it is to link the new team with teams of the past.

DOES NEW GEAR HINT AT POSSIBLE JERSEY STYLE/STRIPING?

As part of the home opener ticket pack promotion, the Redblacks released an ad featuring QB Henry Burris sporting some gear we haven’t seen before. For those that haven’t seen it, here’s the ad:

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Specifically, the striping on the hat seems very reminiscent of Rough Riders uniforms gone by. Here’s a closer look at the hat:

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Notice the striping similarities with this jersey from the early 1970s (image courtesy Wikipedia):

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Kinda similar, anyway.

Probably reading too much into one hat, but it is fun to speculate.

Want more on Redblacks jersey concepts? Check out these past blog entries.

@OTTRoughRiders

Interview with “Redblacks Theme Song” creator Nevill Carney (@NevillCarney)

By: Santino Filoso

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Today I’m interviewing Nevill Carney, one of the guys behind the “Redblacks Theme Song”, a fast paced anthem that’s been rocking R Nation. Though conceived and edited by Carney, the song itself was written and performed by Lucas Haneman, a close friend. Make sure you give both Lucas and Nevill a follow on Twitter to stay up to date on all of their latest projects:

@NevillCarney
@LucasHaneman

RR: How long have you and Lucas Haneman known each other and been making music together?

NC: I have known Lucas since Grade 7. We both grew up in Kanata (west end of Ottawa) and have been friends ever since. He is the musician while I am the videographer, essentially, I am the eyes and he is the ears. Believe it or not, all of the music that you hear in the RedBlacks theme music is Lucas! I guided him along what I was hoping to achieve but his talent carried it through to where it is now. He never ceases to amaze me!

From start to finish how long did it take you guys to put the whole thing together?

From start to finish, it took about a day and a half to come up with the musical aspect – Lucas is that talented! Once we established that we wanted to keep it simple enough for anyone to hum along to (and have a hint of 80s rock in there for good measure! – think Motley Crue’s “Kickstart My Heart”) we made quick work with the video. The visual aspect took half a day to shoot but two or three solid days to get the edit where I felt it was appealing enough to release on Youtube. So, all in, I would say five days of total time to complete it.

Were you surprised at how quickly the Redblacks and R Nation embraced your song?

In the age of social media, it didn’t surprise me that we would get a few responses for the theme. But the amount of POSITIVE feedback that we have received is ludicrous, especially at this time of year when football is an afterthought for most people focused on hockey. We couldn’t have gotten far without support; R Nation rocks!

Has there been any talk of your song being used at home games next season, and if so what would it mean to you guys?

When I initially thought of the idea for creating the tune, my end goal was to have it used by the team for when the players come out onto the field during home games. If it were to become the ‘official’ theme of the Redblacks, that would be amazing! It would mean a lot to both Lucas and myself as we have wanted to contribute in some small way to the Ottawa community. If it gets people jacked, excited and/or pumped, we have done our job! Hopefully people continue to support it so that it is heard over the sound system at TD Place at Lansdowne.

Are you guys big CFL fans, or was this just a case of being in the right place at the right time?

I wouldn’t say that I am a big CFL fan…yet! Reason being that I don’t like hopping on any other team’s bandwagon and cheering for anyone but Ottawa. I was pretty young when the Rough Riders left in ’96, and the year the Renegades left was when I was hoping to attend my first live football game at Lansdowne. With the announcement that the Redblacks were coming in 2014, I jumped at the chance and got season tickets on the new south side.

Lucas, on the other hand, due to his being visually impaired (many people have expressed shock when we tell them this detail!) is not able to observe sports the same way you or I do. Regardless, he does enjoy supporting his home town teams and maintains a high spirit each and everyday that I have known him.

What’s your favourite Lansdowne memory?

Having missed out on CFL games growing up, my favourite Lansdowne memory would have to be with the 67’s. There was one season (2000-2001 season) where the team went on a tear and won the OHL championship trophy (the J. Ross Robertson Cup). I always enjoyed, at the end of each game, having a chance to meet the players and collect signatures. I still have my signed pennant on the wall from guys such as Jon Zion, Joey Talbot, Zenon Konopka and Brendan Bell.

Which Redblacks player are you most excited to see take the field next year and why?

The Redblacks player that I am most excited to take to the field this coming season would be either Henry Burris or John Delahunt. It will be interesting to see if Burris can shake off both last year’s Grey Cup loss and the expansion woes of a new team. Plus, he seems like such an awesome, likeable guy! John Delahunt was with Hamilton last year and is a local guy who played with the Kanata Knights/Ottawa Sooners – it’s hard to not cheer on a guy from your home town!

How will you follow this song up? Are you guys planning on making any more Redblacks related music?

I would love to follow this theme song up with something else. Some of the comments we have received have been ‘negative’ in that we didn’t make the video funny enough or have ‘creative lyrics.’ That was never the point of this particular theme. It was always about being a predominantly instrumental piece that incorporates the team name in a chant to get both players and fans alike pumped before a game. Maybe eventually we can make a funny chant or something. I would love to make use of the saw blade sound effects for something else! That was a good time incorporating that with the music theme.

Any chance of a parody video in the works?

Chances of a parody video? It might be something fun to do down the line. I would be open to suggestions!

Would you recommend watermelon smashing as a good stress reliever for other Redblacks fans?

Haha, watermelon smashing is definitely a good (yet, costly!) stress reliever for Redblacks fans. Seeing as Saskatchewan is only in town once/twice a season, something else may need to fill in. Stomping on stuffed tiger kitties, perhaps?

Where can people go to check out more of your music?

People can check out more music by going to YouTube and searching “Lucas Haneman” (whom I have helped produce many of his music compilation videos). Here is a link to his channel:

http://www.youtube.com/user/LucasHaneman/videos
and here is one of my favourite videos:

I am mostly a video guy but some of my work can be found on YouTube as well under “Nevill Carney”. I split my time in Ottawa/Toronto and work for Discovery on the show “Mighty Ships” while in the Big Smoke.

Thank you very much for your time and I hope to see more Redblacks related songs in the future!

@RedBlackGade

#RNation

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In spite of what people think about ‘Redblacks’ as the name for our new CFL team (I’m personally not a huge fan, although it has definitely grown on me), the marketing folks at Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group have done a nice job in creating a meaningful moniker for the fan base – R Nation (check out #RNation discussion right now on Twitter)

At first glance, it seems too simple, even lazy. (“Yeah, yeah, Redblacks starts with an ‘R’ and you added ‘Nation’. Great…”) But here’s why I think it might just be a little bit of genius:

A link to the past
There is nothing more emblematic of the proud football history in Ottawa than the white ‘R’ that has adorned the helmets of those great Rough Rider teams of the 1960s & 70s, teams that created some of the greatest sporting memories in this city’s history. Not to mention hats & other gear worn by legendary coaches like Frank Clair (below) and Jack Gotta.

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Yes, we’re not the Rough Riders (two words) anymore. And there are a lot of good reasons, frankly, to let that name die. The last couple decades of that franchise’s existence are better forgotten (perhaps it’s no coincidence that the ‘R’ logo was missing in those last few agonizing years of the Rough Riders existence, not to mention the entire 4 years the Renegades were around). But we’re still Ottawa football and the ‘R’ logo is held in very high regard by those who remember the heydays. This is tradition worth maintaining and honouring.

The ‘R’ is also a great way to create a linkage between the players and the fans of the Rough Riders, Renegades and now the Redblacks.

The Nation’s Capital
Besides team history, R Nation is a clever double-entendre, i.e. “Our Nation”. A great slogan for the team in the capital of Canada’s only true professional sports league. Fits very nicely with the CFL’s “This is our league” slogan, too. And isn’t it a pretty neat thing to be able to say “Welcome to R Nation” to CFL rookies from the US? Oozing with pride & nationalism.

In just a few short weeks, the #RNation name has really been embraced by the budding Redblacks fan base. I must admit it is also part of the inspiration for the name of this humble blog. Again, credit to OSEG and the Redblacks for recognizing these linkages to the past and how important it is to incorporate this rich history into the identity of the new team. They get it.

The R Nation nickname has also been met with some surprising bitterness/anger from Saskatchewan fans who believe it to be too similar to their #ridernation fan base nickname. A little misguided, however, as this is not about them. The Rider name is their’s. But the ‘R’ belongs to Ottawa.

Redblacks jersey numbers?

On the day of the Redblacks Expansion Draft, an astute CFL fan noted that the Redblacks official site was using this number template on its player pages:

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An interesting find. Definitely matches the cut-out style on the Redblacks R logo, as below:

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If this is indeed the number template they’re going with, it certainly points to a non-traditional jersey style. Not necessarily a bad thing. Certainly an ambitious choice. High risk, high reward, I suppose.

Interesting to note that the team has since removed the player number references from all player pages. Simply because numbers haven’t officially been assigned to players yet? Or cleaning up an unintended mini-leak? Pure speculation at this point. Pretty enjoyable speculation, actually 🙂

#RNation

Ottawa Redblacks jersey concepts

Probably the most anticipated – and hotly contested – elements of any new franchise launch are the team name, logos and uniforms. Ottawa is certainly no exception. The Redblacks name was met with a mix of confusion (“what’s a Redblack?”), acceptance (“I’m just happy to have football back in Ottawa!”) and (if Twitter is a true gauge of the fan base) intense hatred. The logo, on the other hand, has been pretty warmly accepted.

And now, we wait for the uniforms.

According to Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group and Ottawa Redblacks President Jeff Hunt, uniforms will be released in April 2014. The original plan was to have jerseys out before Christmas, but looks like Reebok needed more time than anticipated, as they are also releasing all new alternate jerseys for every team. That puts us still a couple of agonizing months away. What is an Ottawa CFL football fan to do?

Answer: concept art!

Here are a few of the concepts I’ve come across over the last few months. The first is from Nelson Hackewich:

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In my opinion, Nelson absolutely knocked it out of the park with this concept. The simple, classic striping on the arms, the Russ Jackson-era red numbers on the white uniforms, the Redblacks ‘R’ alone on a black helmet. Perfection. If OSEG land anywhere close to this, I believe they will have one happy fan base.

This next collection is from Nevill Carney:

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Another great collection with a classic look. This one more 70s/80s-era Riders. I think Nevill is bang-on in expecting a black home & white away, as well as a red alternate jersey right out of the chute. As for an official retro jersey, my guess is the Redblacks wait a year before wearing them, as they will likely want to focus on building their own brand. Also, releasing four different jerseys in the inaugural season seems slightly excessive.

Next is this trio by Dan Ruggiero:

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What’s not to like about these? Nothing loud or crazy. Just some very well executed uniforms. Simple, clean design, yet still modern. The red helmets look quite good (I liked them more than I thought I would, actually), but my guess is the Redblacks stick with tradition and a black helmet – in year one, anyway.

Hopefully this whets your appetite for a little while, #RNation. Kudos to these three talented gentlemen on some great work. I’ll be on the lookout for other concepts in the days ahead as excitement builds towards the official release.

Welcome to ‘Defend the R’

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Thanks for stumbling upon Defend the R, a blog dedicated to coverage of Ottawa’s CFL franchises past and present. I plan to share thoughts & ideas about the Redblacks, as time ticks down to kick-off in their inaugural season, as well as take a look back at franchises from the past – the Ottawa Rough Riders and the Ottawa Renegades. (SIDE NOTE: How perfect is this WordPress theme for an Ottawa CFL blog!!)

I will do my best to keep this blog up-to-date. If it happens to get a little stale, you can be sure there will be some action on Twitter at @OTTRoughRiders.

Looking forward to interacting with you in this format, #RNation.

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