by Frankie Benvenuti, OSJ Staff Writer | Twitter: @FrankieVideo
The Ottawa REDBLACKS announced Monday morning that Rick Campbell would not be back for the 2020 season, ending the tenure of coach Campbell after 6 seasons. The REDBLACKS finished the season a dismal 3-15 after being 2-0 to start the season. During his press conference, Campbell said “I didn’t think the status quo was the best thing for the future of the REDBLACKS.” Campbell resigned over the weekend after the REDBLACKS 42-32 loss to the Montreal Alouettes, ending the season on a 1-15 slide.
After the news broke, I immediately reached out to Marshall Ferguson (TSN 1150 Hamilton) and David Naylor (TSN Football Insider). I wanted to find out where they thought the REDBLACKS would/should go after Campbell's resignation. I'd like to thank both Marshall and David for their time.
The first thing I wanted to know was who they thought would be the next head coach of the Ottawa REDBLACKS. David Naylor told me “I don’t really have a shortlist for Ottawa, although I would be surprised if it was anyone from the current staff.” Interestingly enough, Marshall Ferguson also told me that if he were hiring the next head coach, he would be hiring someone who knows how to run an offence. “I think they need and offensive mind. Noel Thorpe is an outstanding coordinator but the city of Ottawa LOVES scoring, points and excitement. They need someone who understands the CFL and can ring it up. Might be (Jason) Maas, might be a name we don’t know right now but that’s the fit to me.” It is super interesting that both of them said that Thorpe either wouldn’t be, or shouldn’t be the next head coach.
One name that has been has been swirling in the rumor mill is current Hamilton Tiger-Cats offensive coordinator Tommy Condell. Condell could be the offensive guru that Ferguson was talking about and has been in and out of the CFL since 1997. Condell made a stop in Ottawa as the Quarterbacks and receivers coach / passing coordinator from 2004-05. Condell is the perfect candidate for the REDBLACKS going into the off season. Even with the season ending injury to Jeremiah Masoli, Condell helped the Ti-Cats offence continue to be among the best in the CFL. The Dane Evans led Hamilton offence scored 26.1 points per game (1st in the CFL), 469 total points (1st in the CFL), 7087 offensive yards (1st in the CFL), and had 393.7 yards per game (1st in the CFL). Above all else, the Tiger-Cats finished with a record of 15-3. Condell has yet to have a chance at a head coaching role in the CFL, and it will be interesting to see if the REDBLACKS have any interest in that kind of guy.
I asked Naylor if he thinks the REDBLACKS can compete for a Grey Cup next season after a new voice becomes the head coach. The answer isn’t something REDBALCKS fans are going to like to hear. “The big problem for Ottawa is they don’t appear to have quarterback solution on their roster. That’s not easy to solve and teams can spend years searching for the answer. There will be growing pains along the way. That’s where the rebuild has to start.”
Not only does Dave not believe the REDBLACKS have a QB lined up, he also questioned the rest of the roster going into the off season. “They don’t have a lot of players who stand-out on either side of the ball," said Naylor. "There are some pieces and the offensive line is decent, which helps. It’s really as simple as finding more good players. That can happen quickly in the CFL.”
He’s not wrong, and it showed on the field this season. The REDBLACKS were historically bad as we all know, and it is going to take a lot of work to overhaul the roster and become competitive again. Ferguson told me roughly the same thing. “Have to get top end talent and better young Canadian talent. Coaches coach. Players play.”
Once again, it’s evident the REDBLACKS need to improve the roster, and clearly neither Marshall nor Dave believe a new head coach would have much of an effect on the competitiveness of the team if the roster remains the same. Obviously, finding a starting QB is going to be the most important roster spot for the REDBLACKS to fill, and the head coach will have a say in who that QB is. Once again, Tommy Condell could be a huge help to the REDBLACKS. Condell already has connections to Masoli and could help lure Masoli to Ottawa. Masoli would change the roster instantly, giving the REDBLACKS a legit starting QB again.
The final thing that I wanted to know is what it would take for GM Marcel Desjardins to be back with the REDBLACKS for the 2021 season and beyond. Naylor responded, “The two things that can help Marcel keep his job is identifying the right QB to ride into the future and showing some improvement in the standings. If the REDBLACKS went 7-11 next season but found their QB, and some other young talent to build around, that would be a successful year.”
Without a doubt, the REDBLACKS need to improve next season. There simply can not be another season like the one just past, and in order to ensure that it never happens again Desjardins needs to change his reputation. Some of the things players have been saying recently aren’t good, and I fear that will hinder the REDBLACKS in free agency. Marcel needs to make an effort to change the reputation and make it clear to every player he talks to that he will make an effort to be better.
Hiring the next head coach of the REDBLACKS is the biggest decision he will make in the off season, and for me personally, I think the choice is clear. If you can hire Tommy Condell, you do it. There are certainly other options out there including names like Jason Maas, Devon Claybrooks, Mike O’Shea, and Paul LaPolice but Condell offers a great amount of experience and a great amount of understanding of the offence in the Canadian Football League. Other than finding the next head coach, the REDBLACKS and their fans will be interested in a QB, but head coach is the first domino to fall.
Only time will tell who gets hired and what changes are coming in the off season. We don’t know how things are going to go, but one thing that is almost guaranteed is that changes will be made and its going to be an exciting time for the REDBLACKS and their fans.
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