With general manager Marcel Desjardins being let go by the Ottawa Redblacks on October 25th, some final thoughts (posted earlier this week on Twitter) on why it happened and where the franchise goes from here.
First off, as much as this was absolutely the right decision for the franchise, there’s no celebration here for a guy losing his job. These guys aren’t millionaires and getting fired always sucks.
In the end, it was Desjardins’ decision after the 2018 season not to prioritize replacing the ‘four-headed monster’ of Trevor Harris, William Powell, Greg Ellingson and SirVincent Rogers with suitable talent that did him in. Simply too much talent lost too quickly.
Few teams could be expected to absorb such losses at marquee positions without taking a big step backwards. In Ottawa’s case, it was a massive step. The swagger from the Grey Cup teams gone overnight, and casual fan interest dropped off noticeably.
It’s very odd, looking back, that Desjardins strayed from building his teams around an elite QB. Winning in the CFL is nearly impossible without one, not to mention the recruiting aspect a big name brings.
The Nick Arbuckle signing looked to be a renewed focus on winning, but the subsequent decision to let him go prior to this season felt like a GM that was either second-guessing himself or lost control. Either way, a confidence-killer.
Desjardins can’t really be blamed for the retirements that contributed to this awful season. But the fact remains the roster was already deficient. Too much had to go right for this team to even compete for a playoff spot. That’s not how you build winning programs.
Ottawa football fans absolutely owe a debt to Desjardins for what he accomplished here, but change had to happen – and probably should have happened a season ago. By the sounds of Desjardins on Monday, he was probably ready for a change of scenery too.
The good news is that there are lots of nice pieces to build around with this Redblacks roster, in spite of its shortcomings. But finding an answer at QB and rebuilding the OLine are obviously critical in returning to competitiveness.
My hope for the next Redblacks GM is someone with CFL front office experience, though not necessarily GM experience. There appear to be a number of great candidates out there, which helps. The speculation will be fun to watch.
With training camp in the books and the 2017 Canadian Football League season on the horizon, general manager Marcel Desjardins, head coach Rick Campbell and the Ottawa Redblacks had the difficult task of paring down the roster to the league-mandated maximum of 46 (not including injuries, plus 10 practise roster spots) over the weekend.
Here’s the team that will storm the field at TD Place on Friday, June 23rd:
DB – Defensive Back
21 Berger, Adam 🇨🇦
20 Bolduc, Jean-Philippe 🇨🇦
46 Carrington, Lloyd
19 Claiborne, Imoan
4 Gavins, Jerrell
24 Jefferson, A.J.
15 Johnson, Keelan
6 Pruneau, Antoine 🇨🇦
9 Rose, Jonathan
32 Taylor, Nicholas
33 West, Dan 🇨🇦
Definitely the biggest question mark coming into the 2017 season. While there are a few returning vets (Gavins, Pruneau) and the addition of former Toronto Argonaut standout Jefferson, the fact is this is an inexperienced group. And while that may be a fairly regular occurrence in the CFL, it nonetheless means dealing with the uncertainty that comes with young players and CFL rookies. That said, D-Block 2017 looks to be a very talented and athletic group, led by coach (and DB guru) Ike Charlton.
After defensive backs, the defensive line is probably the next biggest question mark for the Grey Cup champs. The group remains a strong one, with high-end Canadian talent in Gascon-Nadon, Williams and Evans, but the fact remains Ottawa had difficulty getting to the opposing quarterback for most of the 2016 season. It appears the plan is to rotate seven or eight of these big boys with regularity, at least for the first few weeks of the season.
K – Kicker
3 Maher, Brett
39 Medeiros, Zack 🇨🇦
Maher returns to Ottawa following a strong 2016 season in Hamilton and a brief stint on the Cleveland Browns roster. Medeiros has had a strong camp by all accounts and has performed well in preseason games. Dare we say the kicking positions seem (knock on wood) somewhat solidified?
LB – Linebacker
22 Bass, Khalil
10 Bryant, Serderius
42 Omara, Ron 🇨🇦
44 Reed, Taylor
The Redblacks had some challenges at LB in 2016, with a fair amount of turnover, including adding ‘Tank’ Reed at mid-season and having Gavins (admirably) jump into the position from his normal DB spot(s). Bass was one of the most sought-after free agents available this offseason. This group looks strong.
LS – Long Snapper
52 Doll, Tanner 🇨🇦
50 Bourassa, Louis-Philippe 🇨🇦
Doll was solid in 2016, and 2017 draft pick Bourassa looks to be a versatile back-up that can contribute on special teams.
OL – Offensive Line
53 Albright, Matthew 🇨🇦
68 Draheim, Tommie
63 Gott, Jon 🇨🇦
64 Johnson, Evan 🇨🇦
58 Lauzon-Séguin, Jason 🇨🇦
66 MacMillan, Nolan 🇨🇦
56 Mateas, Alex 🇨🇦
55 Rogers, SirVincent
59 Silas, Jake
With the return of Jake Silas this week, the Redblacks offensive line is essentially the same strong group from 2016. While J’Michael Deane is gone, 2017 first-round pick Evan Johnson will look to make his way into the rotation. Most importantly, guard SirVincent Rogers looks fully recovered from season-ending ankle injury.
QB – Quarterback
7 Harris, Trevor
14 Lindley, Ryan
5 Tate, Drew
For the first time in his pro career, Harris will be the undisputed starting QB. And while he has put up excellent numbers the last two seasons with extended time as fill-in starter, being “the guy” is a different kind of pressure. How Harris responds will be a – if not the – major storyline of the Redblacks season.
RB/FB – Running Back/Fullback
25 Gillanders, Brendan 🇨🇦
45 Gosselin, Anthony 🇨🇦
81 Lavoie, Patrick 🇨🇦
23 Madu Jr., Mossis
29 Powell, William
Powell was a force for Ottawa in the back-half of 2015, including a team-best performance in the Grey Cup loss. After missing all of 2016 with an Achilles injury, WiPo is healthy and looked strong in his limited preseason reps. Lavoie is the incumbent FB and should continue to be that 6th/7th receiving option for Harris.
The Redblacks got a lot younger at receiver this offseason, and many believe they have a chance to be even better than the 2016 crew. Lofty, considering they are coming off a second straight year where four receivers topped 1,000 yards. Shaw (1,004 yards for Toronto last year) & Spencer (706 yards in just 12 games with the Argos) are the big free agent additions, while Criner put up 446 yards in the final eight games of the year, including playoffs, once Chris Williams was lost for the year. Add these three to what we’ve come to expect from The Buds (Ellingson & Sinopoli), and the 2017 Redblacks receiving corps is setting up to challenge the league’s best. Is FIVE 1,000-yard receivers a possibility?
While there are always question marks, there’s little question the Redblacks have improved depth at most positions. Barring significant injury, a healthy Redblacks squad should contend for first in the East Division.
By the way, here’s the Redblacks practise roster for Week 1:
27 Baltimore, Sherrod (DB)
31 Brown, Kevin (LB)
17 Collins, Danny (QB)
98 Ellis, Avery (DL)
80 Hartley, Austen (WR) 🇨🇦
35 Jackson, Kevin (LB) 🇨🇦
57 Lofton, Eric (OL) 89 Rhymes, Dominique (WR)
69 Schmidt, Ryan (OL) 28 Tindal, Corey (DB)
PR UPDATE (6/22): Preseason standout WR Daje Johnson has been added to the practise roster, replacing OL Ryan Schmidt. Johnson will wear number 13.
With all the free agent signings last week, it really looks like the RedBlacks will see a drastic improvement in Year 2.
Another area I feel the team can improve is their look on the field. As I have indicated earlier on Defend the R, I haven’t been the biggest fan of their current look.
Realizing that their jerseys can’t change after a mere season (the uniform manufacturer, Reebok, apparently likes to keep the same set for a minimum of 2-3 years before changes are made), I offer the suggestion that they improve the helmet design and add more red; something that is in the hands of the Ottawa equipment managers rather than Reebok.
Here’s my proposal:
Ideally, with training camp right around the corner, I would love to spread the word and see if this can’t reach the @RedBlacks directly.
With them having their locker room sale for all of last year’s game-worn gear, they will be preparing to order 2015’s inventory soon.
Maybe we can catch them at the right time! What say you, Ottawa? Yay or Nay?
This past Monday, the Ottawa Redblacks unveiled their new mascot during the 67’s Family Day matinee. In a very fitting move, the team chose to keep with the plaid theme and unveiled this handsome fella:
This as of yet unnamed mascot keeps with the theme that the Redblacks organization has chosen to embrace with their brand, logo and history.
1) It pays homage to Ottawa’s lumber history by invoking memories of folk heroes such as Big Joe Mufferaw
2) Lumberjacks are about as Canadian you can get so it’s completely appropriate for the Nation’s Capital’s team
3) He has a jawline that can cut trees, freeing up his axe to chop through opposing teams.
Of course it wouldn’t be Redblacks news without a heavy dose of criticism; first the name was mocked for being too outlandish yet now the mascot is dumped on for being an unoriginal stereotype. Here’s what the naysayers are forgetting; mascots are for kids, and judging by the stream of beaming children’s pictures on Twitter, our lumberjack is a hit!