Rick Campbell leaving Redblacks signals loss of faith in Ottawa GM Marcel Desjardins

Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com
Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken sh*t.

That’s the quote that I keep coming back to as news that Rick Campbell, the only coach the Ottawa Redblacks have had in its six-year history, has chosen to walk away from the team with a year remaining on his contract.

Campbell’s overall record is a mediocre 44-62-2, he was 4-3 in the playoffs, including 3-0 in East Finals and 1-2 in Grey Cup appearances. His decision to leave the Redblacks is a direct result of OSEG choosing to retaining the man who set up the roster he was forced to coach.

In a radio interview last week, former Redblacks quarterback Henry Burris implied that Campbell and general manager Marcel Desjardins were at odds and each had their own alliances within the organization.

Clearly, he was right.

By sticking with Desjardins despite knowing that Campbell felt their relationship had become untenable, it seems that OSEG is alright with laying all the blame for Ottawa’s 3-15 recored, which featured a franchise worst 11-game losing streak, entirely at the feet of their coach.

Although Campbell deserves some responsibility for the season going off the rails (his decision to concede a safety against the Stampeders in late July cost the team a win for example), overall, he coached as well as possible given the circumstances.

Some may argue that his players checked out weeks ago, reflecting a lack of leadership on his part, but in every public interview given, his players continually went to bat for him, praising his personality and ability to motivate during a tough stretch.

In the end, it seems that Campbell was let down by those around him. It’s hard for any coach to look good when his offence scores just 23 touchdowns in 18 games (1.2 per game) and goes weeks at a time without scoring a major. Defensively, the Redblacks were the worst team in the CFL as well, giving up an average of 31.3 points per game. It’s easy to see that math doesn’t add up.

Perhaps OSEG wanted to see Campbell take a more hands-on approach with his offence or defence, but in a world with a CFL front office salary cap, there’s probably not much Campbell could have done. And that’s without mentioning that it’s tough to envision Campbell being allowed to make any changes to his coaching staff without the approval of his GM.

Campbell and Desjardins have worked together since late 2013 and built the Redblacks into what they are today. Although they may have once seen eye to eye on personnel and staffing decisions, clearly things have changed. Instead of engaging in an ugly and public power feud with his general manager, Campbell has chosen to move on, likely confident (and correct) in the belief that he won’t be out of work for long.

Nobody walks away lightly which implies two things. First Campbell lost faith in his general manager and didn’t believe he would be put in a position to succeed in 2020. Second, with coaching vacancies likely to open up in Edmonton, B.C., Toronto and perhaps even Winnipeg, his services will be in demand.

As for the Redblacks, despite the ugly ending of his relationship with Campbell, Desjardins will have no trouble attracting a new head coach. The reality is that Ottawa’s ownership is stable, the fan base engaged and ultimately there’s only nine head coaching positions in the CFL. Someone will want their shot at running a team, plain and simple.

Whoever Desjardins hires will need to turn around one of the worst offences seen in the modern CFL and the league’s worst defence. In an ideal world, said head coach would be able to attract and lure a proven quarterback to the nation’s capital.

But that’s for the future. Right now, many in R-Nation are upset so see the only coach they’ve known willingly leave the team he’s guided to a fair amount of success. That’s because the buck shouldn’t stop at the man coaching the team, but rather with the guy who put it all together.

In the franchise’s ugliest season to date, many in the nation’s capital have been clamouring for change. But it’s safe to say this was not what they had in mind.

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).