Over the first few days of free agency, the Ottawa Redblacks signed 22 players. The second episode of Behind the R centres itself around the pursuit and addition of former Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.
That’s because — as noted by general manager Shawn Burke — the Masoli effect was real, which is why he was their very first call during the legal tampering period. As other players — specifically those on the offensive side of the ball who catch passes for a living — knew Masoli was likely headed to the nation’s capital, the dominos started to fall.
Burke commented that players started selling themselves on the team and we actually see this as he reads his text exchange with Jaelon Acklin to the coaching staff. When pressed on if they have a deal with Acklin, the 26-year-old rising star responds that he thinks they do, but if Masoli’s deal gets done, he knows they do.
Some of the things mentioned by those featured in the episode seem obvious, but are worth stating plainly just to make sure even the most casual fan understands.
When Burke spoke regarding player movement in free agency he pointed out that typically, players only leave their current teams if they are a) getting an enormous raise or b) unhappy in their current situation. This serves as a reminder to R-Nation that Ottawa bucked the trend signing so many new faces.
Not every single free agent joining the Redblacks was paid top market dollar, so clearly Burke did his homework to target those wanting a change of scenery and was able to sell them on the fact that Ottawa is going to be a good situation.
With all that said, I also liked that the Redblacks made it known that they tried to land guys like Dylan Wynn and Micah Johnson but ultimately failed.
It would’ve been easy not to include a clip mentioning the swings and misses but doing so makes Ottawa’s front office more relatable. To borrow a football analogy, nobody completes every pass. This moment of transparency was truly refreshing.
One of the best things about Behind the R is that we actually hear directly from those involved. An introductory press conference can give fans some insight into why a player signed, but having a camera on Masoli in a closed room and watching him reference Henry Burris joining Ottawa and leading the team to a Grey Cup was much more personal.
It revealed a layer of Masoli’s decision-making process that R-Nation otherwise would have missed out on if not for the series. He seemed genuinely excited about a fresh start in Ottawa and his reaction to finding out the team has steam rooms in the shower was priceless.
I also thought it was interesting to listen to Paul LaPolice talk about how he believes the No. 1 thing a quarterback needs to do is provide hope. Not only to the fans, but to the coaching staff and their teammates that they are capable of getting the job done even in the toughest moment.
Although he didn’t come out and say it directly, the underlying message seems to have been that LaPolice knows this was lacking last season. The play-calling in 2021 reflected that and any fan who watched a handful of offensive possessions last year would agree.
The episode did a good job of capturing the sense of hope and optimism around the team but those expectations were tempered when assistant general manager Jeremy Snyder pointed out that there’s no prize for winning free agency. For the fans watching at home, it’s good that those in the front office recognize free agency is just one piece of the puzzle.
Finally, it was neat to see so much of the interior of TD Place on display. The average fan will never visit the bowels of the facility but through this show, anyone can see the slogans and motivational phrases plastered on the walls.
We get to see which images the organization has chosen to blow up and freeze in time. The 20 and 16 framed jerseys on the wall were cool too, reminding everyone what the daily goal should be.
P.S. More drone shots of Lansdowne please!
Behind the R is the brainchild of Josh O’Connor, a video dude and content creator for OSEG — and much like F1’s Drive to Survive — takes fans behind the curtain to show what goes down in the team’s front office. Click here for a review of Episode One.