Elevating Joe Paopao to play-caller reeks of Redblacks desperation

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Talk about shuffling deck chairs on a sinking ship.

Although Ottawa’s offensive committee has led to league-lows in terms of production and points, general manager Marcel Desjardins and head coach Rick Campbell have decided to stay the course, leaving the committee in place but reorganizing roles.

The significant offensive changes Campbell promised are Joe Paopao moving from running backs coach to quarterbacks coach and play-caller, Beau Walker moving from quarterbacks coach back to his previous position of running backs coach and Winston October stays as receiver coach but will no longer call plays.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results, which is why it’s hard to see any way in which this variation of an offensive committee could be expected to work. Not to mention the fact that it’s a precarious move that risks alienating an increasingly bitter fan base.

Before I continue I want to make it clear that I’m well aware of how well liked Paopao is by the players he coaches. He’s universally beloved and it would be a struggle to find anyone on or off the record saying something negative about him. That said, he is a terrible choice to be the team’s new de facto offensive coordinator.

Clearly the Redblacks were caught off guard and left unprepared when Jamie Elizondo abruptly vacated his role a month before training camp kicked off. But Desjardins and Campbell have painted the club into a corner, by first insisting that the committee approach could work (despite the rich history of exactly zero championship teams doing the same.) And now by elevating Paopao into a role he isn’t suited for.

If Paopao was such a great choice to led the offence, why didn’t the team give him the role back in May? Why go through the facade of making him running backs coach and only now, with the season on the verge of going off the rails, hand him play-calling duties?

Perhaps it’s because OSEG is aware of how poorly such a move will go over with a large portion of their fan base. For a franchise that proudly celebrates its Rough Rider history yet acts like the Renegades never existed, promoting a coach held largely responsible for the Renegades lack of success is beyond tone deaf. At best it’s a calculated risk that potentially alienates many in R-Nation if they fail to rally and make the playoffs. At worst it’s a lack of caring or knowledge of their fan base.

Fair or not, Paopao dredges up memories of blowout losses and endless hitch screens. One may point to Paopao’s experience as an asset but when that experience only consists of losing, what good is it?

As a player Paopao went 38-54-2 as a starting quarterback. As the head coach of the Renegades he went 23-49 and his squad never finished higher than sixth in scoring. In his nine seasons as an offensive coordinator with four different CFL teams (the Lions, Eskimos, Bombers and Ticats) he went 69-93.

Paopao most recently had play-calling duties as Simon Fraser’s offensive coordinator, from 2015 to 2017. The team went 0-29 over those three seasons.

Coaches should be judged on the success of their teams, and Paopao’s have never won at any level, anywhere.

Obviously there isn’t a magic solution for Ottawa’s league worst offensive production. And it’s not like there’s an offensive guru sitting at home waiting for a call from Desjardins or Campbell. But putting Paopao, a coach who has a proven track record of losing, in charge of orchestrating the offence, reeks of desperation.

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).