After a couple of horrific seasons, hope has finally returned to the Redblacks’ fanbase with the hiring of new general manager Shawn Burke.
Joining the team after a very successful stint with the Ticats and paired up with second-year head coach Paul LaPolice, Burke is expected to return Ottawa to CFL relevance with some aggressive free agency wheeling and dealing. With organizational holdover Jeremy Snyder as assistant GM and veteran football ops man Brendan Taman as director of pro personnel, the team hopes they are set up for success. There may be one flaw in their plan however.
“I think the only risk factor here is that some of these people who have very important jobs in this organization haven’t worked with other people who have very important jobs in this organization,” CFL insider Dave Naylor said on TSN 1200 in Ottawa.
“I’m not speaking to the specifics here at all, I’m just saying in general that’s the situation. Paul LaPolice has not worked with Shawn Burke. Paul LaPolice has worked with Brendan Taman, Brendan Taman has not worked with Shawn Burke.”
Naylor has long-standing relationships with all of the parties involved in the Ottawa front office and sees no obvious cause for disconcert off the bat. However, relationships in the highly competitive environment of pro football can be fickle and the Redblacks failed to follow the tried and true formula for setting up a team.
“Ideally everybody knows you want an organization that is put together linear,” Naylor explained. “Your owner hires your president, your president hires your GM and GM hires your coach, your coach hires the staff, etcetera.”
In Ottawa, that was always going to be an impossibility. The CFL’s football operations cap ensured that LaPolice would at least get another year under the new regime regardless of his 3-11 record in 2021 and Burke was brought in after.
“It’s a little atypical and we know some of the circumstances of how this came to be. When [former head coach] Rick Campbell walked away and you had LaPolice and [former GM] Marcel Desjardins on different contracts, everybody could see this was the potential if this doesn’t go well,” Naylor continued.
“I think we all knew that Marcel wasn’t going to be back and it would be unlikely that Paul LaPolice would be fired after one COVID season, no matter what happened. I think the way it played out there was never any serious consideration of changing coaches, but that is the risk.”
More turnover down the road can only hurt the franchise’s turnaround time, so the group of unfamiliar coworkers must now gel quickly and get on the same page, regardless of the order they were hired.
With a decision on the team’s quarterbacking future looming large, Naylor emphasized that he likes the each member of the group the Redblacks have put together. Becoming a team is just a different story.
“Individually, I like all the hirings, all the moves that Ottawa has made,” he said. “It’s like anything, all the ingredients are in the bowl now and see if they can work together and make it work.”