After starting interviews for their vacant head coaching position a couple of days ago, the Ottawa Redblacks hope to have the new guy in place in less than two weeks.
Some of the names on Ottawa’s Talk-To list: Redblacks interim head coach/special teams co-ordinator Bob Dyce, Calgary Stampeders assistant head coach/special teams co-ordinator Mark Kilam, QB coach Marc Mueller and defensive co-ordinator Brent Monson, Hamilton Tiger-Cats defensive co-ordinator Mark Washington and former Montreal Alouettes head coach Khari Jones. Not on the list: Former Redblacks offensive co-ordinator Jason Maas (a former head coach in Edmonton and the offensive co-ordinator in Saskatchewan the past two seasons) and former Redblacks quarterback Henry Burris (offensive quality control coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars).
“There’s no definite timeline, but within the parameter of the CFL rules, you have to do it in a tight time frame of about two weeks (after interviewing your first candidate),” said Redblacks general manager Shawn Burke Thursday. “This is my first time (hiring a head coach). I wanted to have a bit of a wide net to make sure we’re making the right decision for the organization so I’d say we’re talking to somewhere between 7-10 candidates. Every guy we’re interviewing deserves an interview and is a guy we’d consider hiring.”
Asked if the higher-ups at Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group would have input on who gets hired, Burke said, “It’s 100 per cent my decision as the general manager.”
While the Montreal Alouettes are also looking for a head coach with Danny Maciocia, who took over for Khari Jones early this past season, stepping back into full-time general manager duties, Burke said he doesn’t look at it as a competition.
“We’re just going to worry about the Ottawa Redblacks,” said Burke. “I believe we have a very desirable organization and situation here — with the ownership group, the city and team itself. We’re going to go through the process, not feel pressured by anyone, see how it evolves and go from there.”
The Redblacks went 6-22 over two seasons under head coach/offensive co-ordinator Paul LaPolice, who was hired before the cancelled 2020 CFL season. LaPolice was fired after a 3-11 start to this past season. Under LaPolice, the Redblacks went 3-11 in the 14-game 2021 season.
TSN’s Farhan Lalji reported the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who are looking for an offensive co-ordinator, wanted to speak to LaPolice, but he has declined and will not coach in 2023.
It’s tough to blame fans for being disgruntled over the Redblacks’ performance since a 2018 Grey Cup appearance. In 2019, with Rick Campbell as the head coach, the Redblacks won just three of 18 games. But Burke said he’s not feeling pressure. He believes it’s an opportunity to find somebody who can help the team take steps ahead.
“We’re very prepared for this process as an organization,” said Burke. “(Assistant GM) Jeremy Snyder, (director of pro personnel) Brendan Taman and myself have put together a thorough process we feel will bring us a candidate … so it’s not nerve wracking. When you’re prepared, it’s exciting. When we get the opportunity to make a selection we feel will put the organization in a different direction, we’re excited. And we’re excited to meet with great football minds to hear their thoughts.
“We’re looking for a leader who can inspire a group of men and inspire a day-to-day culture in our room that’s sustainable for a number of years. We’re definitely looking for a coach that can bring a great coaching staff along with him. And we’re looking for a guy who can manage all the ins and outs of CFL football, in terms of in-game decision-making and whatnot.”
Asked if he was specifically looking for a head coach who didn’t have a co-ordinator role with the team as well, Burke said: “I think it all depends on the situation; that’s why you have interviews. I wouldn’t say it’s a make it or break it. But it’s definitely part of the discussion.”
There will be several potential free-agent players from this past year’s roster, but Burke said there will be no decisions made before the new head coach is hired.
“I don’t think you can bring in a head coach and not have him be part of the process in your player decisions,” said Burke. “You have to do everything in sequential order and the first thing is getting the head coach on board. It’s much different than last year where the head coach was being retained. We also have a different (salary) cap situation than last year. We’ve publicly said we don’t have cap money (available). We spent to the cap. With the timeline we have for hiring a head coach, it gives us a couple of months to get our free agents re-signed (CFL free agency begins Feb. 14). I’m never worried about our organization being able to recruit players. I think we’re in a very good spot.”
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