To suggest that the Ottawa Redblacks have had a difficult off-season would be a colossal understatement. The 2018 Grey Cup finalists have been absolutely decimated on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. When CFL free agency came and went last month, the Redblacks lost several key members of their team. The players lost include;
Trevor Harris- QB- Edmonton Eskimos
Greg Ellingson-WR- Edmonton Eskimos
SirVincent Rogers-OL- Edmonton Eskimos
William Powell- RB- Saskatchewan Roughriders
Rico Murray- DB/LB- Hamilton Tiger-Cats
AC Leonard- DE- Saskatchewan Roughriders
All difficult losses to be sure. Not to mention the departure of receiver Diontae Spencer who signed with the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason.
And then last week, news surfaced that Redblacks offensive coordinator Jamie Elizondo was leaving for the XFL. Another blow to this organization, but also one that may have been avoided.
Self Inflicted Wounds
In the CFL, it is not unusual to see players change teams often, however, some of the departures mentioned above are cause for concern. It isn’t necessarily because they left, but it was the way in which they left.
When QB Trevor Harris left to sign with the Edmonton Eskimos, he indicated his displeasure with the way in which Redblacks GM Marcel Desjardins handled his contract situation. In an article by Tim Baines of Post Media, Harris had this to say about his contract negotiations with the Redblacks;
“I received a call from (Redblacks GM) Marcel (Desjardins) maybe 30 minutes before free agency — it was the first time I’d heard from him (directly) this off-season,” Harris said over the phone from Edmonton. “He said, ‘Hey, it doesn’t look like anything is going to happen and I wanted to thank you.’ So I knew then, for sure.
Interesting way to handle a three-year veteran quarterback that led this franchise to two Grey Cup appearances.
Unfortunately for the Redblacks, Harris wasn’t the only one who felt slighted by this organization.
Former Redblacks all-star receiver Greg Ellingson echoed some of the same sentiments after also signing with the Eskimos. In a mid-February interview on TSN 1200 radio in Ottawa, Ellingson had this to say about negotiations with the Redblacks prior to free agency;
“I didn’t actually hear from Marcel (Desjardins) until the morning of the day of free agency. I felt a little off about that, that he maybe was looking at other guys and once they re-signed with their teams then I came back up as OK well now we can get Greg back since we didn’t get other guys that we targeted. Just judging by the lack of conversation that I had sent a message to me and also the offers that they sent to me made me feel like my value for them wasn’t as much anymore. That’s the message that I got.”
There seems to be a pattern here and not a great one if you’re a fan of the Ottawa Redblacks.
Perhaps the best, or worst example of the Redblacks mismanagement is in the case of former offensive coordinator Jamie Elizondo.
Back in January (one month before CFL free agency), the Saskatchewan Roughriders asked the Redblacks permission to speak with Elizondo in regard to their vacant head coaching position. The Redblacks immediately denied the request. The reason? It was too close to the start of the season to find a replacement for Elizondo.
It would seem apparent that this decision did not sit too well with Elizondo as he has since bolted for the XFL. No two-week notice to the Redblacks, no heads up that this was in the works, no indication that he would not be back. And who could blame him?
The Redblacks blocked him from interviewing, no, not taking the position, just an interview that could benefit himself and his family. A remarkably short-sighted decision from this organization.
Good organizations and leadership, in any business, encourage personal growth and the opportunity for advancement for their people. In the instance of Elizondo, the Redblacks decided to do the opposite and now they suffer the consequences. Had they let Elizondo interview, would he still be with the Redblacks today? Hard to say. However, in all likelihood, Elizondo would not have departed in the fashion he did had he been shown a little respect from his employer.
The Last Word
The Ottawa Redblacks have had an exceedingly difficult off-season to date. However, with clear communication to their players and staff alike, a lot of these issues likely could have been avoided.
In business as in life, there are always lessons to be learned. The Redblacks off-season has been filled with teachable moments. Only time will tell if they have learned anything from these examples.
They say the business side of professional sports is tough and involves difficult decisions. While that is, of course, true, one can’t help but wonder if this organization has made it more difficult on themselves than it ever needed to be.
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