Redblacks fix that which isn’t broken

Now that it’s been confirmed that Travis Moore, Bryan Chiu and Ike Charlton are no longer with the Ottawa Redblacks, the question must be asked.

What on earth is GM Marcel Desjardins thinking?

Not only did all three men have distinguished playing careers before entering the coaching ranks, but the trio are also all known as player coaches.

If Desjardins wasn’t happy with his team’s offensive or defensive performance (and he shouldn’t be), firing positional coaches is simply not the answer.

Travis Moore has been with the Redblacks since the team’s inaugural season in 2014. With the exception of the expansion season, he has consistently gotten the most out of his receiving corps.

In fact, the Redblacks are the only team in CFL history to boast four 1,000 yard receivers in consecutive seasons, with Brad Sinopoli, Greg Ellingson, Chris Williams and Ernest Jackson all achieving the feat.

As for this past season, the Buds (Sinopoli and Ellingson), yet again both cracked the 1,000 yard mark. Diontae Spencer, in his first year in the nation’s capital, posted career highs in every category and emerged as one of the league’s biggest game breakers.

Furthermore, it’s not like Moore has just ridden the coattails of superstars; Ottawa boosts a plethora of promising young receivers; Juron Criner, Josh Stangby, Jake Harty and Dominique Rhymes have all flashed moments of brilliance.

When it comes to Bryan Chiu, it’s undeniable that the offensive line showed significant improvement under his watch.

Chiu, who joined the team in the 2014 off-season, has done a tremendous job of preparing young rookies to step in and play along the offensive line. In 2016, the Redblacks gave up 50 sacks (2.7 per game) and averaged 4.8 yards per carry. In 2017, those numbers improved, with Ottawa conceding just 33 sacks (1.8 per game) and averaging 5 yards per carry on the ground.

And that improvement came in spite of a slew of injuries to key starters. SirVincent Rogers, Jon Gott and Nolan MacMillan all missed significant time.

Under Chiu’s watch, Jason Lauzon-Séguin, Evan Johnson and Matt Albright developed into reliable starters. Not to mention Alex Mateas blossoming into an All-Star at centre.

It’s odd to suggest, but in 2017, the offensive line seemed to be at it’s cohesive best when it’s starting line up consisted of Jake Silas, Evan Johnson, Alex Mateas, Matt Albright and Jason Lauzon-Séguin. It’s even fair to wonder if the decision to replace Silas with SirVincent (who hadn’t played in more than a month) and moving Mateas back to guard (away from the centre position in which he excelled), factored into the playoff loss.

That’s not to imply that Gott and SirVincent aren’t important pieces, but given how well the offensive line seemed to be clicking, messing with the starting group on the eve of the playoffs was always a head scratching decision.

As for Ike Charlton, his track record speaks for itself. When given time, he turns rookies into shut down players. Abdul Kanneh, Brandyn Thompson, Jeff Richards, Forrest Hightower and Jerrell Gavins were all unknowns before becoming respectable defensive backs. Of that group, only the latter (Gavins), is still with Ottawa. The rest went south to the NFL or were signed away to other CFL teams in free agency.

Charlton was also able to maximize talent when given established players. Jonathan Rose and Mitchell White both had excellent years as the Redblacks won the Grey Cup in 2016. White, who went on to spend time in the NFL, attempted to re-sign with Ottawa earlier this year but was rebuffed, being told the Redblacks were happy with the group they had.

As for said group, to put in bluntly, you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken crap. After an off-season of turnover in his secondary, Desjardins chose to sign rookies and one vet (AJ Jefferson, who was cut after only a handful of games). And that’s fine, but with rookies in starting roles come growing pains. And Sherrod Baltimore, Corey Tindal and Winston Rose all experienced those pains to varying degrees.

To me, given Charlton’s track record in coaching guys up, if you’re going to go with rookies, it’s only fair to give him time to develop them. It’s not an overnight process.

The decision to release Charlton seems a lot like having the positional coach be the fall guy for the GM failing to provide adequate players in a Grey Cup hosting year.

In the end, what does releasing a handful of player coaches really address? Was it Moore’s fault that with Sinopoli already out and Ellingson hurt early in the playoff game there was a lack of depth behind them? Are the receiving corps drops in that playoff loss on him? Did Chiu decide to only run the ball eight times in the playoff loss? Was Charlton the one who chose to play conservatively and not blitz against a fairly immobile Kevin Glenn?

If a team looking for answers was going to make changes, you’d think they’d start at the top, asking hard questions of their head coach and coordinators, not with positional coaches.

Because after all, at the pro level, positional coaches aren’t teaching technique, they’re honing it. They’re managing personalities, correcting small errors and imparting knowledge, leadership and experience. All things Moore, Chiu and Charlton had in spades.

And now something the Redblacks just lost a lot of.

Santino Filoso

Santino Filoso

Born and raised in the 613, Santino has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know.)
Santino Filoso
Santino Filoso
About Santino Filoso (225 Articles)
Born and raised in the 613, Santino has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know.)

32 Comments on Redblacks fix that which isn’t broken

  1. Bill deHoog // November 29, 2017 at 2:41 pm //

    agree 100%. Must be more to it, as I don’t think Marcel would change for the sake of change. Was there dissention/bickering going on behind doors. Need an aggressive DC (Thorpe?)with a change of philosophy. Hope there is additional news coming. Doesn’t add up

    • I thought I read that at least one of them wanted to go, but the reason wasn’t stated.

      It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Chiu spent a considerable amount of time in Montreal. Maybe he thinks there’s an opportunity there. Moore is from California, I believe. Maybe he wants to be closer to home. Their contracts were running out anyway so I view it similarly to a free agent player who doesn’t plan to return and is released early. it’s still a loss but I don’t know that we can read that these coaches are being held responsible in particular.

      That said, Desjardins has a tendency to slam the door on guys who leave willingly and that, to me, is a flaw. We’ll bring back Jamill Smith and Scott MacDonnell but not Forrest Hightower and Mitch White because those guys ASKED to leave. It’s limiting yourself and I wish he didn’t do it. If Chiu didn’t find a gig and we had yet to hire a coach, I doubt Desjardins would consider bringing him back and it’s the wrong reason not to.

      • Jamill Smith is with Edmonton and seems to be thriving he’s their main return guy so clearly he can play in this league, Desjardins knows that, MacDonell was used very sparingly after year one but look as his stats, his yard per catch right up there with the best receivers when they chose to use him, which was never under Alizondo. Desjardins likely knows that too. Sometimes it’s a coach or OC who wants his guys so player B becomes a casualty. It’s the GM’s job to find the talent the coaches pick their lineup. Are we really sure Marcel Desjardins doesn’t know talent ? two Grey Cup appearances in their short history and now he’s a flawed GM ? Wow tough crowd !

        • It will be interesting to see how much of Desjardins talent was based on “standing on the shoulders” of Brock Sunderland.

          • Honestly not worried about it. Genuinely asking the question: What rookie talent has Sunderland brought to Edmonton?

          • He has also worked a long time under Popp as well as made a ton of mistakes while being the Cat GM.

            It probably also helped to Burris able to comment/recommend guys like Sinopoli and Ellingson, which don’t become available every day. Or to have Calgary cut Reed halfway through the season.

        • Jamill Smith thriving? He’s one of the biggest plugs in the entire CFL. Run 10 yards straight ahead, then dive (or fall after hitting his teammate’s ass).

          • Ottawa’s free agency period was pretty poor, but Diontae Spencer replacing Jamill Smith is the one super bright highlight.

        • I didn’t say Desjardins doesn’t know talent. I don’t even know where you got that. On the contrary.

          I used Smith and MacDonnell as examples of guys they cut and he brought back. But I can’t think of too many guys that ASKED to leave and were brought back. Cleyon Laing and Brandyn Thompson are two more. In that situation, Desjardins acts like the boyfriend who got dumped and won’t answer the phone if he recognizes the name. Shawn Lemon is another.

          • Hey I do see your point CCRider and maybe he does bear a grudge where he shouldn’t but it could also have been the dollars needed to bring back the prodigal sons. As for Jamill Smith Edmonton was happy to have him this year, he may not be as effective or dangerous as Spencer but he definitely is a CFL caliber returner able to break one at any time. The other guy MacDonell was a big bodied receiver who could play specials, we forget that Sinopoli wasted away in Calgary for four years until Desjardins went and got him. Canadian receivers with that kind of size and talent are hard to find, Desjardins found a few of them.

            Laing and Lemon are one year rentals and I don’t blame them one bit for that, nobody is really paid what they deserve in this league, but maybe the price was too high given the ridiculous cap limitations in the CFL.

          • “… it could also have been the dollars needed to bring back the prodigal sons.”

            He (Desjardins) has said a couple of times that guys like Lemon have been told that if they don’t take the deal offered by Ottawa, the money will be spent elsewhere. So you’re probably right on that level. It just makes you wonder when Toronto is able to sign someone like Laing again, or Mitchell White and win a championship.

            On the other hand, Popp had to eventually dump some significant talent during his last year or two in Montreal because he appeared to have gotten himself in money trouble, so maybe this will all catch up to him down the road.

          • Sinopli “wasted away for four years” in Calgary?

            Year one was as a QB, year two started with being cut out of training camp as QB, re-signed when Tate was injured early then spend the rest of the season as third stringer QB.

            Sinopoli only gave up on the QB role at the end of year two so at most, he was a receiver where one can debate the “wasting away” for two years.

            As for Desjardins – I am pretty sure Sinopoli’s ex-teammate, Burris was making him aware of the potential … just like he did for Ellingson.

  2. Anthony Kaduck // November 29, 2017 at 2:46 pm //

    It’s hard to see how this makes the Redblacks a better team.

  3. Possibly clearing the decks ahead of changes with the OC and DC, so that they are free to bring in “their” guys rather than having to be the ones who fired popular assistants?

  4. The OC an DC’s only defense to declining production is to blame assist. Sign of a Fragile leadership base! OC is being compared to Maas when he left and how he left things…blazing hot thus he got EE Head Job! This is the problem in Coaching. Ottawa’s talent isn’t great in fact their rooks are bottom half of league 8-9-1 back to back says mediocre but were lucky enough to get a bye and snow and played solid and won a GREY CUP. Not like the last3 champs that played well throughout season!

    • I don’t get how getting snow is lucky. Was Toronto lucky to get snow too? Why are western teams unable to handle snow?

  5. Dejardins Reminds me of another man named kent Austin things go a little south in a season and he pulls the trigger possibly a little prematurely !

  6. Thanks for writing this Santino……you are absolutely correct. There’s a stinking rot emigrating from TD Place. If anyone needs to go it’s Desjardins. He’s the one who sadddled this coaching staff with a bunch of inexperienced rookies on defence. He’s the one who didn’t feel we needed Mitch White, or Hightower. He’s the one who hasn’t been able to find that edge rusher this team has so desperately needed since he turned his nose up at Shawn Lemon (although Jim Popp seemed to be able to find Victor Butler in a matter of a few months before the season started). Look at this teams record over the last two years…and their home record……shameful….and all this is the fault of some position coaches who were clearly loved by their players. As a long time fan, I’ve seen this crap before and it never ended well…we are squarely on that same path.

    • You had me right up to that last sentence. Replacing four position coaches is NOTHING compared to the ship of fools that used to set up shop off Bank street. Come on now…

      A couple of years everyone was panicking over losing Jason Maas and we made out OK. Pump the brakes a bit.

    • Desjardins was terrible in Hamilton…and his real side is now showing in Ottawa…no surprise here…

      • That’s like saying a player’s rookie year is the true indication of his ability. Doesn’t make a lot of sense.

  7. 2 defensive coaches and 2 offensive coaches let go. For the 2nd year in a row the team did not have a winning record during the regular season for what it is worth. No doubt the HC, OC and DC coaches had a say in this decision. If any of those guys want a certain coach under them they usually get what they want. The good ones land on their feet elsewhere in the CFL, CIS, NCAA or possibly the NFL with the right connections. Will be interesting to see where they end up but I see Montreal and Hamilton and possibly BC as landing spots for these guys in 2018.

  8. Any good OC’s available.

  9. Ok hold it….firing (not renewing….call it what you want) four good position coaches is the symptom here…..the root cause is the GM…….simply put….he isn’t a personnel man with enough good US based contacts to annually re-stock this team in this ridiculous one year contract league. Compare his work to Jim Popps, Chris Jones, Huffnagel, geez even Tillman. We bring in raw kids who need two or three years to develop and then if they do develop….they’re gone. The REDBLACKS need an experienced, connected PERSONNEL guy……until that happens…..shuffling through position coaches is irrelivent and won’t matter.

    • I think they’re separate issues. There’s speculation about friction on the coaching staff, none of which we’d heard prior to Elizondo showing up as OC (so make of that what you will). Player selection/evaluation won’t do anything about that.

      I agree that they have to do a better job of retaining young players though. They seem to think that DBs are a dime a dozen. Blaming Ike Charlton for not developing young players fast enough at that position only goes so far. He can only work with what he’s given and we all know the expression about chicken salad.

  10. Red and Black // November 30, 2017 at 11:15 am //

    Desjardins is a terrible GM. Now he’s looking for scapegoats. Clears out a bunch of proven performers at the end of last year. Let me guess, because they asked for small raise for having 1000 yards receiving and a Grey Cup winning catch?

    • You can’t keep everybody, bud. The player’s request has to be reasonable too. It took an awful long time for Jackson to sign with anyone then he ended having a miserable year. I suspect the $$ he was asking for wasn’t very realistic. And you can’t compete when guys have an NFL shot (I do wish he’d make a better effort at going after them when they’re available again though).

      Meanwhile, Ottawa secured Greg Ellingson in no time and he led the league with 12 receiving TDs. They brought back several of their own, too, let’s not lose sight of that.

  11. Howard Wulkan // November 30, 2017 at 1:21 pm //

    “It’s odd to suggest, but in 2017, the offensive line seemed to be at it’s cohesive best when it’s starting line up consisted of…”
    So this translates to “…seemed to be at it is cohesive best when it is starting line up consisted of…”, which obviously is a bunch of nonsense. “It’s” = “it is”, “its” = “belongs to it”. This isn’t hard to learn and remember.

    • Howard Wulkan // November 30, 2017 at 1:24 pm //

      Another one: “As for said group, to put in bluntly” – Did you mean “to put it bluntly”? 3DN, it’s time to hire an editor (or fire the one you have and replace them with someone competent).

      • Enrico Della penta // November 30, 2017 at 5:19 pm //

        Thanks for reading and your grammar lessons. Keep up the good work. Ttyl

      • “…or fire the one you have and replace them with someone competent…”

        If the first part of your sentence is singular (one), should the end be singular (he/she) as well, instead of plural (them)?

        it happens. 😉

        • Howard Wulkan // December 1, 2017 at 12:27 pm //

          These days “them” is generally considered acceptable to refer to someone without pointing out a specific gender. It’s not a great solution, but it’s the best we have until a better word comes along.

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