Ottawa Redblacks head coach Paul LaPolice has been coaching in the CFL for 20 years and worked with a number of experienced football minds.
LaPolice was asked to choose the best all-time coach for defence and offence in the three-down loop. Coaches currently working in the league were left out of the selection process.
“On defence it would have to be, I’m going to give the edge over Dave Ritchie to Wally Buono. Obviously, how many years he was in B.C. an experienced guy,” LaPolice told TSN reporter Brent Wallace.
LaPolice never worked directly with the Canadian Football League Hall of Famer, however, he competed from a coaching perspective with him for many seasons. Buono retired from the CFL following the 2018 season. He won five Grey Cups as a head coach, three in Calgary with the Stampeders and two as the head man for the B.C. Lions.
On the other side of the football, LaPolice went with a man who he worked with in Toronto and Saskatchewan.
“And on offence, there’s been a lot of good guys I’ve been able to work with, Kent Austin. He was very sharp, I learned a lot about how to throw the football and how to use motion,” LaPolice said.
Austin was hired as the Roughriders head coach for the 2007 season and brought LaPolice to the prairies as his receivers coach. The Riders won the Grey Cup over Winnipeg that year. When Austin left to be the offensive coordinator at the University of Mississippi, LaPolice took over play calling duties and it led to him being hired by the Blue Bombers.
That’s where LaPolice worked last season and put together a creative offence which resulted in a Grey Cup championship. The time spent with Austin helped LaPolice relate his playbook and verbiage to quarterback Zach Collaros.
“It was very interesting this past season working with Zach Collaros, Zach and I had never worked together, but we knew each other and Kent worked with him for a number of years,” LaPolice said.
“A lot of Kent stories came up this past year, Kent ran this or this is how I learned this, so that was kind of my introduction to Zach, him and I talking about stuff we learned in the system. Or there were times I would say, ‘Hey, Zach when you were with Kent you used to call this, this.’ And he was like, ‘OK, ya that’s fine.'”
Winnipeg’s CFL title solidified LaPolice’s place as the best active offensive schemer and play caller in the league. Perhaps one day his name will be among the greats in history.