Apparently the second time’s the charm.
After interviewing for the Redblacks’ head coaching position back in 2014 in an airport hotel boardroom (before the team even had real facilities), Paul LaPolice finally landed the gig in 2019.
By announcing LaPolice signing a three-year contract, general manager Marcel Desjardins has officially added the second coach in franchise history.
The Nashua, New Hampshire native is a CFL veteran and was the most sought after candidate on the coaching market following the Winnipeg Blue Bomber’s Grey Cup win.
LaPolice boasts 19 years of experience in the three-down game, breaking into the league with the Toronto Argonauts back in 2000 as the team’s quarterbacks and receivers coach.
In 2002 he moved west, going to Winnipeg as their offensive coordinator, quarterbacks, receivers and running backs coach. For the 2004 season, LaPolice joined the Hamilton Tiger-Cats as their receivers coach before making a lateral move to Toronto the following season.
He was a part of Saskatchewan’s Grey Cup-winning team in 2007, again as a receivers coach. The following year he was promoted to offensive coordinator and held the role until he was hired by Winnipeg to be their head coach in 2010.
LaPolice’s first stint as a head coach came with growing pains, Winnipeg went 4-14 and missed the playoffs but quickly rebounded in 2011, winning their division and making the Grey Cup. As a result, LaPolice was named the CFL coach of the year.
Mid-2012 he was relieved of his duties and moved to TSN working as an analyst during games, providing a unique and often entertaining perspective during his “Coach’s Playbook” segments.
Since 2016 LaPolice has overseen Winnipeg’s offensive attack, which has been a top-three scoring offence in three of the last four seasons.
So what does LaPolice’s addition mean for the Redblacks? Quite a lot actually.
First off, it serves notice that despite the messy ending with Rick Campbell, Marcel Desjardins is still capable of attracting top level talent to the nation’s capital. That was a significant concern among certain segments of R-Nation but it proved to be utterly unfounded.
Second, by adding arguably the brightest offensive mind in the league, the 2020 Ottawa Redblacks should have no problem moving the ball and scoring points. That’ll be a welcome relief to a fanbase that endured a historically poor offence which averaged 1.1 touchdowns per game in 2019.
On a related note, LaPolice’s hiring confirms that the dreaded offensive committee is finally dead and abolished. It was a decision doomed to fail as soon as it was announced and hopefully the results ensure such an experiment of collective coaching never happens again.
While LaPolice stated that he will indeed be calling plays and directing Ottawa’s attack, he left the door open to hiring someone else to hold the actual title of offensive coordinator to assist him from the coaching booth.
With the league implementing a cap on non-player football operations costs in 2019, it’ll be interesting to see how LaPolice forms his staff and if there will indeed be room for an offensive coordinator or assistant.
In his introductory press conference, LaPolice shied away from making grand statements and commenting directly on players already on the roster, instead promising to leave no stone unturned and emphasizing the importance of building a playbook tailored to what specific players do well, putting them in the best possible position to succeed.
After watching the 2019 offensive committee repeatedly try to shove square pegs in round holes, LaPolice’s words should be soothing balm.
How he’ll scheme to get players like Brad Sinopoli open, John Crockett involved and DeVonte Dedmon in space will be exciting.
LaPolice is a coach known for being ultra prepared and thinking outside the box to maximize talent on his roster. Given that the Redblacks need an infusion of talent and improvement in all three phases of the game, maybe LaPolice is exactly the right man for the job.
Desjardins mentioned that despite a strong field of candidates for the head coaching role, LaPolice still stood out as the best choice. And given that his new head coach expressed excitement to work with Desjardins in the coming weeks to shape the roster, set his staff and begin targeting free agents, perhaps the page is finally turning on the most disappointing season in Redblacks’ franchise history.