Redblacks’ general manager Marcel Desjardins bears blame for quarterback woes

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

If the Ottawa Redblacks putrid 3-15 record wasn’t proof enough of a disastrous 2019 in the nation’s capital, their double digit season-ending losing streak should be.

The Redblacks 11-game losing skid was punctuated by losses in all five games played against the also playoff-less B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts.

The punishment meted out by this team to the poor souls who ponied up for season tickets was so horrific that some of those fans are even comparing it to Eugene Melnyk’s Ottawa Senators.

You know things have hit rock-bottom ‘when’.

Football fans in the Ottawa Valley have paid dearly for daring to dream that quarterback Jonathon Jennings would boldly go somewhere he hadn’t gone all season by posting a win.

The Redblacks ineptitude on offence turned that crew into the league’s ultimate slump-buster for even the CFL’s worst.

So, now that the Ottawa Redblacks season (which started with a win on the road over Calgary, need I remind you) is officially gone, it’s time to start asking the question, where did it all go wrong?

The answer, as it usually does for any bad team searching for them, starts and stops at quarterback.

Trevor Harris was considered among the league’s elite signal-callers going into the last off-season after playing a pivotal role in getting Ottawa to two of the last three Grey Cup games.

Harris, a free agent coming out of 2018 who had agreed to take a pay cut to give his team more cap space to sign others a year ago, had verbally agreed to a $475,000 salary for 2019 to be signed upon the end of CBA negotiations.

It appeared to be a position where the Redblacks were set. If Harris’s camp is to be believed, it all unraveled from there over how big of a signing bonus the quarterback was to be paid up front.

The 33-year-old told Tim Baines of the Ottawa Sun back in February, “It was just a couple of email exchanges between the two (the Redblacks and Harris’s agent). They asked if we were going forward with the number (the two sides had agreed to from the year before) and we said, ‘Yep’.”

Harris went on to tell Baines there were differing amounts discussed over the signing bonus portion of the contract before he (Harris) asked to have a chat with Redblacks general manager, Marcel Desjardins.

It never happened.

What do you mean, it never happened?

The GM couldn’t be bothered to sit down and try to hash out any differences in signing bonus with his franchise quarterback?

The same franchise quarterback who agreed to take $50,000 less in salary than how much he eventually signed for with Edmonton.

For his part, Desjardins elected not to get into specifics with the media about all this and instead chose to go with unproven 30-year-old backup Dominique Davis and Lions castoff Jennings, whose own inconsistency had led to plenty of questions about his ability and work habits.

Desjardins might argue he doesn’t need to provide an explanation to his fan base due to his unwillingness to sling mud in the media. But the details of how this all went down matters big time now as football fans in the nation’s capital who support this enterprise deserve answers as to how the season could become such a wasteland.

Davis had some of us fooled early on with wins over Calgary, Saskatchewan and Montreal. But as we sit here today with snow on the ground in some parts of the country and the Redblacks finishing with only three wins, it’s become clear that it was all a mirage.

If Desjardins took credit for the CFL’s return to Ottawa being a success, which it has been with three Grey Cup appearances in the first five seasons, then he should also accept the blame for losing the team’s star quarterback and flushing a once-promising 2019 down the drain.

Players and coaches have to answer for their performance and record. The general manager should too.

Nowhere is that more evident these days than in Ottawa with its football team.

Brendan McGuire has covered the CFL since 2006 in radio and print. Based in Regina, he has a front-row view of Rider Nation.