After going 3-15 in the 2019 CFL season the Ottawa Redblacks have changed a lot of things. Just a few days following the last regular season game of the 2019 season on November 1st against the Montreal Alouettes at TD Place it had first been announced that the Ottawa Redblacks and head coach Rick Campbell were parting ways. The team later brought in Paul LaPolice and a fairly new coaching staff, having just Bob Dyce and Patrick Bourgon as returning coaches, and signed a large group of players on both sides of the ball headlining veteran CFL quarterback Matt Nichols. Nichols was signed by the Ottawa Redblacks on January 31st as a part of a free agency swap with quarterback Nick Arbuckle who had originally been signed by the Ottawa Redblacks on a three year contract but never played for the team, being cut by the Redblacks just hours ahead of the Matt Nichols to Ottawa announcement. At 34 years old Matt Nichols brings 10 CFL seasons of experience to the nation’s capital versus Arbuckle’s 7 career starts and being signed alongside a number of offensive playmakers like Jalen Saunders, Anthony Coombs, Timothy Flanders and Daniel Petermann that experience he has in the CFL is one of the three reasons why Matt Nichols is the right quarterback for Ottawa.
Matt Nichols has been a part of the CFL since October 13th 2010 when he signed with the Edmonton Eskimos after going un-drafted in the NFL Draft and spending two pre-season games with the Dallas Cowboys. He has since been a well known quarterback for both Edmonton and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, having played well over 100 games, thrown for over 18,000 yards and been a part of a Grey Cup winning roster. Out of all of the quarterbacks available in free agency the past two CFL off-seasons, Matt Nichols is by far the most experienced and will be a big help to the Ottawa Redblacks offence as there is a number of players that have yet to suit up in the CFL like Akeem Hunt, Amba Etta Tawo, and Brandon Hitner who each may be asked to do big things in the 2021 CFL season.
Along with the young players on the Ottawa Redblacks roster going into the 2021 CFL season, Matt Nichols will also be reunited with a lot of his former teammates and coaches in the capital, making his familiarity with the organization a key component to why he is a great fit in Ottawa. At the top of the list of players and coaches he’s familiar with is Paul LaPolice. Matt Nichols has played under Paul LaPolice’s offence since 2016 when LaPolice became the offensive co-ordinator in Winnipeg, Nichols’ first season as a starter as well. They have since been able to go 39-21 together over the 4 seasons with the Blue Bombers. A lot of those wins having to do with some key players that the Ottawa Redblacks brought in this off-season as well. Nichols will also be familiar offensive weapons Malcolm Williams, Daniel Petermann and Timothy Flanders who each spent time with him in Winnipeg like back up quarterback Dominique Davis. Offensive line coach Bob Wylie also spent time in Winnipeg in years 2015 and 2016 that Nichols was there, adding to the familiarity he has in Ottawa.
One more of many reasons why Matt Nichols is the right quarterback and will be great for the Ottawa Redblacks is his consistency and ability to win games. Since entering the CFL Nichols has been a winner, and has been consistently. He has only missed the playoffs in three of the ten seasons he has spent in the CFL, only one season being a starter, having been in the playoffs for the past four seasons and every season spent under now Ottawa head coach Paul LaPolice. Coming on to a team that just had the most disappointing season in franchise history in 2019 it is expected that he brings his winning mentality to the city and it shouldn’t be too hard to do so considering the pieces around him.
Nichols will be coming to camp in July at TD Place with the opportunity to throw to a lot of players, similar to those he had success with the last time he stepped foot on a CFL field in 2019. On his 7-2 stretch with LaPolice and the Blue Bombers Matt Nichols threw for 1,936 yards on 171 completions, and on pace for an MOP caliber season Nichols found his favourite targets Darvin Adams, Nic Demski, Drew Wolitarksy, Andrew Harris and Lucky Whitehead for a combined 15 touchdowns. Looking at the weapons named as well as key contributors Kenny Lawler, Rasheed Bailey, Janarion Grant and Chris Matthews, the receivers in Ottawa that Matt Nichols will be able to practice and play with aren’t much different. Big body receivers like Darvin Adams, Chris Matthews and Kenny Lawler all play similar roles RJ Harris, and young players in Ottawa like Justin Hobbs, Jaelan Austin, Shannon Smith and Wesley Lewis. Both Lucky Whitehead and Janarion Grant have speed receiver and kickoff return duties like DeVonte Dedmon and Rafael Araujo Lopes that spent 2019 in Ottawa as well as new comers Marvelle Ross and Ryan Davis. Receivers Rasheed Bailey and Drew Wolitarsky have similar tangibles and roles as those Brad Sinopoli, Jerminic Smith and Jalen Saunders could have with Ottawa in 2021 and lastly Nic Demski’s role in the Winnipeg offence could be replaced with the one Anthony Coombs has played over his career in both Toronto and Hamilton.
All in all, with the players Matt Nichols will be teamed up with in Ottawa and the coaches that are there to help him and his teammates the 2021 season should be executed much better than the Ottawa Redblacks’ 2019 CFL season was and be a successful season. It will also be a good opportunity to showcase why the Redblacks picked Matt Nichols to be their quarterback moving forward, for the experience, familiarity and consistency he brings to the Redblacks, only helping him adjust in the nation’s capital.