‘This isn’t some reclamation project’: head coach Bob Dyce believes Redblacks are close to winning

Photo: Bob Butrym/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

The Ottawa Redblacks officially named Bob Dyce as their new head coach last week and he wasted no time assuring fans that the club is well on its way to turning things around.

“We’ve got our work ahead of us but I have the benefit of having worked with these guys and (general manager) Shawn (Burke)’s done a great job with the additions to talent. We’re not far away, this isn’t some reclamation project,” Dyce told the media in Ottawa.

“We’re going to get to work and we’re going to be successful because that’s just how we will operate together. This is a group deal. I look forward to putting my staff together, rolling up our sleeves and getting to work.”

The Winnipeg native has been in Ottawa since 2016 when he was hired as the club’s special teams coordinator. He won a Grey Cup that same year and coached in another in 2018 before watching the team fall into a miserable slump, going 10-40 over the last three seasons with a 2-23 record at home.

Dyce took over as the club’s interim head coach in October following the dismissal of Paul LaPolice and finished the year with a 1-3 record. The team lost 11 games under LaPolice this past season by an average margin of 10.7 points, including a blowout loss to Toronto in Week 16 that likely sealed his fate. Ottawa’s three losses under Dyce came by an average of 4.7 points.

The 57-year-old knows how much the Redblacks mean to their fans, who have continued to provide solid attendance at TD Place Stadium despite the team’s poor on-field performance.

“I’ve been here in Ottawa for seven years and one thing that I’ve been able to experience and learn is to get an understanding of this city. What I realize is how passionate the fans are in this city, how passionate the players are on this team,” said Dyce.

“When you coach in the CFL, you want to be in a city that cares about football and Ottawa is exactly that. This city loves their football, they love their Redblacks, and I love this city just as much and extremely proud to be here representing this team and I don’t take that likely.”

Burke interviewed a large number of candidates with the finalists for the job reportedly including Dyce, Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ defensive coordinator Mark Washington, and Toronto Argonauts’ defensive coordinator Corey Mace. He felt as though giving Dyce the role on a permanent basis was the correct decision after conducting a thorough interview process.

“I treated Bob like any other candidate through this and I thought that was important. I thought the four games, five weeks of us working together in a different landscape set the tone for what this is and what I’ve said from day one is the head coach-general manager relationship is a partnership. It’s not about a hierarchy, it’s about a partnership,” said Burke.

“What became evident through this time is there’s a few members of each organization that are the heart of the organization. It’s not one person, there’s always a couple. I’m still fresh here — I hope to be part of that heart one day — but Bob Dyce is the heart of the organization, he’s one of those men and I’m excited to give him this opportunity.”

Dyce indicated that he’s taken something from each of the coaches he’s met in the past, though the one he deems most critical is Brian Thompson, his high school basketball coach, a “foundational mentor” without whom he may not have made it through high school. He also joked that the only bad thing he can say about Thompson is that he’s a 57-year season ticket holder of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

“If I have a strength as a coach, it’s that I’m able to build relationships — trusting, honest ones — and going through this process, even learning more about Shawn,” said Dyce. “I know they were doing a lot to learn more about me, but I learned more about Shawn and I’m excited this whole group has given me the opportunity to lead this team in 2023 and beyond.”