Tough decisions ahead for Redblacks after lopsided playoff loss to Riders

Lisa Wallace, Canadian Press

The disappointment of losing the East semifinal hadn’t worn off as Ottawa Redblacks players and staff prepared to go their own ways Tuesday morning.

The defending Grey Cup champion’s season came to an end Sunday afternoon in a 31-20 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and they were still struggling with how things finished.

“It’s a little disappointing that our worst game of the year was played at the most important time,” said Redblacks general manager Marcel Desjardins. “You’ve got to give the opposition some credit, but we made too many mistakes. We weren’t on point enough and now it’s up to us to correct this and get this going back in the right direction.”

Figuring out what direction to take won’t be an easy one for Desjardins. A number of key players are looking for new contracts, most notably quarterback Trevor Harris.

Despite posting some impressive numbers this season, many questions remain regarding Harris.

The 30-year-old threw for 4,679 yards, fourth best in the league and just 21 yards behind Calgary’s Bo Levi Mitchell who played two more games. Harris had 30 touchdowns, tying him for first with Edmonton’s Mike Reilly, who played three more games.

But he missed three games due to injury and was picked off five times over his past two games, including twice in the East semifinal.

“It’s a tough one for me to swallow personally,” said Harris. “As some of you guys know I’m a bit of a sore loser, but I’ve been told if you show me a good loser I’ll show you a loser.

“It’s disappointing, it’s tough when you pour that much into a season and you come up short of your main goal.”

Harris, coming off a two-year deal, said he wants to come back, but the question remains whether or not he fits into the Redblacks’ plans.

Desjardins was non-committal when asked how he would rate Ottawa’s quarterback position.

“I think it was good, it wasn’t great,” Desjardins said. “Stats are one thing. Trevor did a lot of great things for us and the stats certainly reflect that, but at the end of the day our record was what it was and we weren’t able to obviously win the crucial game last weekend so it needs to be better. I think he’s the first one to acknowledge that and know there’s still room for improvement.”

Desjardins did say the Redblacks would like to re-sign Harris, but “let’s just hope that the numbers can work that way.”

In addition to Harris the Redblacks will need to make decisions on receivers Brad Sinopoli and Diontae Spencer as well as running back William Powell.

Sinopoli surpassed the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the third straight year with the Redblacks, while Spencer emerged later in the season. Both could be of help to Ottawa.

Powell, once fully recovered from an Achilles injury, proved he can be extremely effective. In just 12 games he had 1,026 yards on 173 carries, good for second in the league. Yet he had just eight carries in Sunday’s loss, running for 50 yards.

While much will be made of the Redblacks offensive struggles, the defence had its fair share of shortcomings.

The Redblacks need improvement on their pass rush, and a veteran presence on defence would be beneficial. Ottawa had a lot of youth on defence and management is hoping the experience gained this season will help improve things next year.

“It might be easy to point the finger at the defence because of its youth, but we need to re-evaluate the entire team,” said Desjardins.

A complete re-build isn’t the cards for the Redblacks, but losing the semifinal has forced them to take a close look at what needs to improve most.

“I still think there’s a ton of good here and a lot of good coaches and players,” said head coach Rick Campbell. “Obviously we’re going to need to improve to get where we want to go.”

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17 Comments on Tough decisions ahead for Redblacks after lopsided playoff loss to Riders

  1. If $$ is a little tight, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Sirvincent Rogers and/or Jon let go. The team has done well drafting/developing O-Linemen and being over 30 years of age seems to be the kiss of death on this team (except at QB).

  2. Jon GOTT, that is…Obviously…

  3. Can’t see them resigning Nolan MacMillan…..salary is way up there and he’s injury prone. Unfortunately……time to move on. Agree that some salary can be saved on one of Sir V or Jon G……but team needs to be cautious here. These guys are veteran leaders.

  4. TwoTurnTablesandaMicrophone // November 14, 2017 at 4:08 pm // Reply

    Time for the RBs to move on and sign an experienced backup QB. Release Tate and Lindley and start over. Perhaps Durant at a much reduced rate would be a fit. Harris with a veteran capable backup may secure the position nicely.

  5. Lot of talk around Franklin maybe replacing Harris. What’s your spin on this CC?

    • I’m with Handler and Chris below. The guy’s numbers were comparable to the top QBS in the league despite missing a couple of games. He knows he has to improve, he works hard, seems popular within the team, is good with the fans, loves it in Ottawa, wants to be here…I don’t see the point of starting more or less fresh on someone even less proven.

  6. Huge gamble on a guy who has never started and then once he gets to F.A., we know Chris Jones is drooling and the Saskatewan war chest awaits. We might end up with nothing. Keep Harris……and let’s focus on the real problem here……no pass rush!

    • Agreed Handler. Harris could use a bit better protection. And yes need to improve pass rush. Harris is only 30 with lots of potential to improve. There was a ton of pressure on Harris this year. He put up 30 TD’s. not bad at all and as aa fan he is exciting to watch with a great arm.. if he signs for reasonable money I would resign for sure

  7. Brandon Bridge is an under-the-radar free agent with the potential to be a starter. Desjardins could split the money it would cost to re-sign Harris and obtain both Bridge and Franklin to compete for the position.

  8. Derek Taylor did a piece on just how overrated Bridge is – incredibly inaccurate passer. Only completed 50% of passes in college. Franklin will have multiple offers according to TSN earlier this year. You’re not going to sign BOTH Franklin & Bridge for Harris money. I can tell you Esks have offered Franklin a very good deal for a backup to stay. He wants to start & has an outside chance down south if he has a good year here. James Franklin was the #4 rated QB in the USA going into college & backed up Blaine Gabbert in Missouri before starting his 2nd year. Was MVP in the Independence Bowl. Injuries derailed his senior year. Jones will go hard after him, Mtl & Toronto are also looking for younger QB’s. Ottawa will take a look as well. You heard it here 1st – Bridge will NOT be the next starter in Regina. Book it. Jones knows he’s not the “next one”.

    • His efficiency numbers and small sample size might suggest otherwise, but I see Bridge as a strong-armed, mobile and extremely confident player deserving of a legitimate shot, not unlike Jeremiah Masoli. Regardless, it will be interesting to see where all the FA QBs end up this off-season.

      • You’re probably both right. Bridge is only 25 and maybe some of his shortcomings can be fixed with sound coaching.

  9. Boneyard. Agree Bridge over rated. Surprised that there is any knock on Harris.

  10. Harris,Sinopoli,Spencer and Powell all need to be resigned. Beef up the “D” and we are good to go.

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