Redblacks ran ‘hurry up offence’ to hire GM Shawn Burke before final Edmonton interview

Photo courtesy: Ottawa Redblacks

The Ottawa Redblacks dropped the first episode of their new documentary series Behind the R on Saturday, taking fans inside the hectic hiring process that led to new general manager Shawn Burke arriving in the nation’s capital.

A long-time assistant for Hamilton, Burke was a highly coveted candidate in the aftermath of the Ticats’ Grey Cup loss. As OSEG CEO Mark Goudie reveals on camera, a normal executive hiring process might take several months but the CFL hiring cycle compressed their window to just 14 days. With the Edmonton Elks also engaged in a GM search, the pressure was on.

“Edmonton was — bad football pun — but they were going into the hurry up offence with their hiring,” Goudie explains. “Three of our four top candidates were going to be flying to Edmonton on the Saturday and the Sunday morning to do second and third interviews for that job. Our information was that they were going to make a decision on their general manager likely on the Sunday. Instead of meeting and reviewing things on Saturday, we went into our own hurry up offence.”

Reports on December 19 were that Winnipeg assistant GM Ted Goveia and eventual hire Chris Jones had been narrowed down as the final two candidates and flown to Edmonton for competing interviews. It now appears that Burke was supposed to be part of that process before the Redblacks pulled out all the stops to get him under contract before his flight could leave.

Footage shows a myriad of meetings on December 18, including a final interview between Burke and OSEG executive chairman Roger Greenberg and a meeting of the prospective GM and Redblacks head coach Paul LaPolice.

In a separate meeting between LaPolice, Goudie, and OSEG senior vice-president of sports business operations Adrian Sciarra, the stakes are laid out.

“There’s not just one good candidate out there, there’s a few, but Shawn for me jumped out ahead,” Sciarra told the group.

“Paul, our reality is he’s on an airplane at six o’clock with two other guys and Edmonton’s gonna put the full court press on,” Goudie added. “I think he’s probably going to be the first candidate and they’re going to give him an opportunity to be GM and a contract and if he doesn’t take it immediately, they’re gonna move to the next guy. I think it’s a today thing to solve for if he’s the guy.”

The belief that Burke would be Edmonton’s top choice for their opening and his own expression of interest in the job spurred a contract offer on the Saturday, just hours before reports surfaced about final interviews in Edmonton.

“Shawn, I’ve got some bad news,” Goudie said in captured cell-phone footage from that evening. “I think we’re gonna try to make half the wardrobe in your closet obsolete and turn it into red and black.”

Burke’s hiring was publicly announced the next day. The Edmonton Elks named Chris Jones as their head coach and general manager the following Tuesday.

New episodes of Behind the R are scheduled to be released on the final Saturday of each month, covering the inner workings of free agency, the draft and more.