Since the Ottawa Redblacks came into the CFL in 2014 the franchise has had just one identity. Led by general manager Marcel Desjardins and for the longest time head coach Rick Campbell, the Ottawa Redblacks looked to be a young franchise that has been having success and has a lot more on the horizon, however a lot of that narrative has changed. The downfall of the Redblacks began during week 4 of the 2019 CFL season. After a 2-0 start, where the Ottawa Redblacks beat the Calgary Stampeders and Saskatchewan Roughriders Marcel Desjardins’ off-season decisions were exposed. They fell to the 3-0 Winnipeg Blue Bombers 29-14, and then the losses started to pile up, only seeing one more win during the rest of the 18 game CFL schedule. Ottawa finished the season 3-15 and all eyes were on the losses of key players from the 2018 Grey Cup run, quarterback Trevor Harris, running back William Powell, receivers Greg Ellingson and Diontae Spencer, offensive linemen Sir Vincent Rogers and Jon Gott, defensive lineman A.C Leonard, linebacker Kyries Hebert and defensive back Rico Murray. Diontae Spencer’s route to the NFL was the only of the group which Desjardins couldn’t stop, but many members of R-Nation were disappointed in losing what was the identity of the 2018 Ottawa Redblacks.
The players lost during that off-season were replaced by free agent acquisitions Jonathon Jennings, John Crockett, Caleb Holley, Nate Behar, Shaneil Jenkins, Darius Jackson, Julien Laurent, Jerod Fernandez, Brandin Dandridge, Gump Hayes and Chris Randle but the newcomers were not good enough for the Redblacks to have a winning season. At the end of the 2019 CFL season head coach Rick Campbell decided to walk away from the organization and join the B.C Lions as the head coach/co-general manager. Marcel Desjardins and the front office then brought in a new coaching staff led by head coach Paul LaPolice. LaPolice, over a two year long CFL off-season thanks to the cancelation of the 2020 CFL season due to COVID-19 brought in a number of his former players from his time spent with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as well as other free agents. They brought in quarterback Matt Nichols, running back Timothy Flanders, receivers Daniel Petermann and Anthony Coombs, defensive linemen Cleyon Laing, Stefan Charles and Davon Coleman, linebackers Micah Awe and Don Unamba and defensive back Abdul Kanneh as headline players in the off-season, but also lost a number of key players. Ottawa was going to be without Caleb Holley, Brad Sinopoli, John Crockett, Dominique Rhymes, Alex Mateas, Jason Lauzon-Seguin, Evan Johnson, Alex Fontana, George Uko, Michael Wakefield, J.R Tavai, Danny Mason, Anthony Cioffi, Kevin Brown, Jonathan Rose, Chris Randle, and Corey Tindal for the 2021 CFL season and although they may have brought in a lot of talent during the off-season the losses once again overpowered the additions.
With just 3 games remaining on the 2021 CFL schedule for the Ottawa Redblacks, the team sits at 2-9 and on Monday they announced the parting ways of the franchise and general manager Marcel Desjardins. Going back to the first point; the Redblacks have only had one identity over the 8 seasons they’ve been in the CFL and it looks like that is going to change with a new general manager coming to the capital soon.
The new general manager will come to Ottawa and work with a team that has a lot of talent but will have to add to it. Ottawa’s top performers of the 2021 CFL season have been quarterback Caleb Evans (933 yards and 4 touchdowns passing, 218 rush yards), running back De’Lance Turner (148 yards of offence on 26 touches in 3 games), receivers RJ Harris and Ryan Davis (combining for 1,032 yards), defensive linemen Praise Martin-Oguike, Avery Ellis and Davon Coleman (10 sacks combined), linebacking core Micah Awe and Avery Williams (3rd and 4th for CFL tackle lead, 129 tackles and 3 sacks total), defensive backs Randall Evans, Abdul Kanneh, Brandin Dandridge and Sherrod Baltimore (7 interceptions, 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery combined) and special teamers Lewis Ward, Richie Leone, and DeVonte Dedmon (no explanation needed). The talent is there for the 2021 Ottawa Redblacks, but there are some missing pieces to the puzzle. When the new general manager comes to town, that will look to change and the Redblacks will then have the goal of bringing the Grey Cup back to the nation’s capital.