Jaime Elizondo’s departure will sting Redblacks

Screenshot courtesy: Ottawa Redblacks

Given the date, R-Nation could be forgiven for thinking it was an April Fools joke.

After all, in previous years, the Ottawa Redblacks have been cheeky on April 1st, announcing a gondola over the South Side and a 150-foot tall statue of mascot Big Joe.

But news of Jamie Elizondo’s resignation from the position of offensive coordinator is no laughing matter. The curt press release following the announcement shows this wasn’t a mutual or friendly parting.

It’s almost unheard of for an organization to actually say a staff member has quit on the team.

Since losing the Grey Cup, fans in the nation’s capital have watched their starting quarterback, top two receivers, starting running back and a handful of offensive linemen leave town, but Elizondo’s departure for the XFL trumps them all.

The impact of losing an offensive coordinator a month before the draft and six weeks out from the starting of training camp cannot be overstated.

During his time in Ottawa, Elizondo oversaw one of the league’s most potent attacks. In addition to guiding Ottawa to a Grey Cup victory (and three straight playoff appearances), Elizondo helped quarterback Trevor Harris improve his stats each season, resulting in a career year for Harris in 2018.

Although Elizondo occasionally drew the ire of fans due to his offence’s red zone struggles and his fondness of hitch screens, the numbers don’t lie. Over the past two seasons, only Edmonton’s offence has produced more first downs than his attack. With Elizondo pulling the strings, the Redblacks were a threat to score every time they took the field.

At this point in the off-season, general manager Marcel Desjardins will have a tough time finding a capable replacement. Other CFL teams certainly won’t allow him to poach from their staffs (nor should they) and most USports coaches have already committed to their schools for the upcoming season.

There’s no relief to be found down south either. AAF coaches with experience directing a CFL offence are few and far between and clearly the XFL is paying better than what CFL teams can offer.

As for those leaning towards more outlandish ideas, such as bringing in the retired Henry Burris or Ricky Ray (given his current limbo), look no further than what happened to the great Anthony Calvillo when he was rushed into a position he clearly wasn’t ready for. Elizondo leaving is painful; having someone with zero experience game-planning or play-calling, like Burris or Ray, replace him, would be a debacle.

That’s why the Redblacks will likely look to fill the role by promoting from within. Receivers coach Winston October and running backs coach Beau Walker both have significant CFL experience and could be candidates. Current special teams coach Bob Dyce was an offensive coordinator with Saskatchewan in 2012 but shifting him would weaken a team strength and simply form a new hole to be filled.

Ultimately whoever lands the job will have their work cut out for them. With just over a month to put together a full playbook and scheme before players start arriving for camp, the Redblacks suddenly find themselves playing from behind.

Santino Filoso is originally from Ottawa and has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know).