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What Went Wrong for the 2019 Ottawa Redblacks

From Beast to Least

by Frankie Benvenuti | Twitter: @FrankieVideo

Photo credit: Global, Patrick Doyle

This REDBLACKS' season has been an absolute disaster no matter how you choose to look at it. It seems that just about everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Everything from the OC quitting just days before the season began, to losing key names in free agency, all the way up to a decision to give up a safety while up by 4 to the Calgary Stampeders earlier in the year. There isn’t just one thing that we can point our finger at and say it’s the problem, In fact, there all problems all over the place with this team. When I look at this season, I think there are 4 things that have been the key contributors to the failures this season. Those four things are not having an offensive coordinator (OC), poor quarterback (QB) play, lack of star power at the receiver (REC) position, and of course injuries.

When Jamie Elizondo left the REDBLACKS in March to go to the XFL, most REDBLACKS fans knew the team was going to be in trouble. I personally was never a huge Jamie Elizondo fan, but the only thing worse than a bad OC is no OC. You can’t help but speculate exactly why Jamie left, was it because they didn’t let him interview for a head coaching job that late in the offseason, or was it because they lost almost the entire offence in free agency? There is a good chance we will never find out exactly why he left, but it left a massive hole for the REDBLACKS to fill.


At the beginning of the season, Winston October was named the play-caller, not OC. They were going to call plays as a committee, between Winston October and Joe Paopao, they were going to fill the hole Elizondo left. This would very quickly prove to be an ineffective strategy and after losing to Hamilton to fall to a record of 3-6, the REDBLACKS named Joe Paopao the play-caller. The play calling has been iffy at the best of times this season, but I don’t know if Elizondo would be doing any better. A coach can only be as good as the players he is given, if the talent isn’t there, the coach can’t do much to make the team a whole lot better.

The REDBLACKS need to find an OC this offseason, and taking the easy way out and naming Paopao the OC isn’t going to cut it. They need someone new, someone with some fresh ideas. That needs to happen as soon as possible so they can build the offence how they want it. Don’t mess this up, REDBLACKS.

When Trevor Harris went to Edmonton in the offseason, many fans were confused about the direction the REDBLACKS were headed in, and rightfully so. There was also the vocal minority that thought the team would still make the playoffs, and they were wrong. I was part of the minority that thought Ottawa was going to be okay, mostly due to my belief that Dominique Davis would make a good starting QB. There is one game that comes to mind where it looked like Davis was going to be a star, and that was the week 2 games against Saskatchewan. Davis looked spectacular throwing for 354 yards with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions and tacking on 43 rushing yards.


Remember that Greg Ellingson guy? I wonder how he is doing. 1094 yards with 5 touchdowns on the year. Ellingson may be gone due to the refusal of a breathalyzer in the offseason. The REDBLACKS moved on. I honestly don’t have a problem with this mindset, but where I have a problem is not bringing in anyone to replace a superstar. There were plenty of names out there, including Manny Arceneaux. Who did the REDBLACKS sign you may ask? Well, they signed Caleb Holley and Nate Behar. There is nothing wrong with either of these two if they are put into the right situation, but neither of them is a go-to guy. These two are great third or fourth options.


Arndt looked decent in his first career start against the Argonauts but still threw 3 interceptions. In last week's game against the Tiger-Cats, Arndt didn’t look like a starting QB in the CFL. The REDBLACKS can’t give up on Arndt just yet, especially after the way he performed in training camp, but he is going to need to prove something quickly if he wants a chance to be the starting QB for the REDBLACKS next season.

Remember that Greg Ellingson guy? I wonder how he is doing. 1094 yards with 5 touchdowns on the year. Ellingson may be gone due, in part, to the refusal of a breathalyzer in the offseason. The REDBLACKS have zero tolerance for this kind of thing. I honestly don’t have a problem with this mindset, but where I have a problem is not bringing in anyone to replace a superstar. There were plenty of names out there, including Manny Arceneaux. Who did the REDBLACKS sign you may ask? Well, they signed Caleb Holley and Nate Behar. There is nothing wrong with either of these two if they are put into the right situation, but neither of them is a go-to guy. These two are great third or fourth options.

Going into next season, Brad Sinopoli said “It’s nice that I have ties here in Ottawa and I’m able to play here. But at the end of the day as a player, you have a very short career and you want to get the most you can out of it. I don’t think for anyone there’s such a thing (as a hometown discount). I love this place, I love Ottawa. Through the experiences you build something up — connections and ties — I love playing here, I love the fans I meet, I love the ownership group. The coaches, the GM — there’s consistency. This is the place I want to be. I’m hoping they want me here. We’ll see.” Baines, T. (2019). Hometown discount? Maybe no, but Redblacks receiver Brad Sinopilo wants to stay in Ottawa. Keeping Sinopoli would be huge for Ottawa, but they must add this offseason. Adding to the receivers would help the QBs too.

Last but not least, injuries. It seems like the playmakers the REDBLACKS do have are hurt. Avery Williams, Antoine Pruneau, Jonathan Rose, Devonte Dedmon and many more. I know every team has their injuries, but the 3 best players on the REDBLACKS' defence are hurt. Playmakers on offence are hurt. For a team that doesn’t have many playmakers, seeing them standing on the sidelines in street clothes during the game really doesn’t help anything.


Long story short, the REDBLACKS' issues aren’t just with one particular position. GM Marcel Desjardins is going to have a lot of work to do this offseason, including finding an OC, a new starting QB, some new receivers. Hopefully next season, the exterminators are called to deal with the injury bug as well. If the REDBLACKS are able to correct these issues, we will see a very different result.

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