HIGH HOPES: Ottawa Redblacks really thought 2021 would be different

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The Ottawa Redblacks were overwhelmed by what turned out to be a smelly 2019 season. Little did they know that it would be the same as always, the same as always in 2021.

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After a strong 2018 season, where they finished with an 11-7 record and advanced to the Gray Cup (losing 27-16 to Calgary), expectations were high. Starting quarterback Trevor Harris was gone, signing as a free agent with Edmonton, so the Redblacks named Dominique Davis as the starter. The team failed and finished with a disappointing 3-15 record. At the end of the season, head coach Rick Campbell left and Paul LaPolice, the offensive coordinator for the Gray Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers, was hired.

Hopes were high again for 2021. There was a lot of news: a coaching staff and a starting quarterback in Matt Nichols. It has not worked. With three games remaining in their CFL season, the Redblacks, with a 2-9 record, have already been eliminated from the playoff chase. On Monday, the Redblacks fired general manager Marcel Desjardins, who had been with the team since its inception.

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“Everybody knew that coming out of 2019, next season was going to be very important for the Redblacks,” said Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group President and CEO Mark Goudie. “My hope and my expectation was that we were going to get back to where we needed to be, which is to be perpetually competitive and host playoff games at home. That did not happen. Until recently, I was hoping that we could change course, show progress, and begin to build some hope and optimism for what was to come for the rest of this year and next year and beyond.

“I grew up in Ottawa. I was an inhabitant of the north. I have been going to soccer games since I was five years old with my dad. I understand the scorched earth of professional soccer in Ottawa. That’s the environment we enter with the Redblacks. We were extraordinarily proud of how we were able to bring this franchise to championship games off the ramp. I understand frustration and I understand passion. I keep this image in my head: (At the 2016 Gray Cup parade) when we circled Isabella towards Bank St. I was expecting a couple thousand people. Seeing 40,000 or 50,000 people lined up on the snow, one freezing rainy day was incredible. That is what we want, that is what we have to go back to. “


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