OTTAWA — The struggling Ottawa Redblacks have already started preparing for the 2022 season, and their first order of business was firing general manager Marcel Desjardins.
Desjardins was notified early Monday morning of the change, which came on the heels of a 32-3 loss to Hamilton this past Saturday that officially eliminated the Redblacks from the post-season with three games remaining.
The Redblacks are a league worst 2-9 this season and mired in a four-game losing streak.
Desjardins has been at the helm since he was hired in 2013 and has had an impressive tenure, including leading the team to a Grey Cup title in 2016.
The last two seasons, however, have seen Ottawa mired at the bottom of the CFL standings, and ownership decided a change was necessary.
In a radio interview with TSN1200 Monday, Desjardins was blunt in his assessment of the move.
“(Mark) Goudie came over (to my office) at 6:30 a.m. and told me they were making a change and I said ‘I think you guys are making a mistake’,” said Desjardins. “I packed my bag and came back home.”
Desjardins said the team is on the right track, despite the losing record, and added he will take time to contemplate what comes next.
"It’s disappointing to leave on this note, but at the end of the day it’s the business," he said. "I’m looking ahead, I’m not looking back."
Goudie, president and CEO of Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, said the culmination of events this season made the difficult decision to make a change necessary.
“There's a lot of things that happened this year from a year off with COVID and retirement and injuries and probably some self-inflicted wounds as well, but there's a lot of stuff going on this year,” Goudie said.
Goudie said the team had a "glimmer of hope" when rookie quarterback Caleb Evans stepped up with Ottawa hurting under centre and threw three touchdown passes in a Sept. 28 win over the Edmonton Elks. But that win was followed by the team's current four-game skid.
"I've been hoping that we were going to hit our stride and for the back half of this year be able to show that we were climbing our way back to where we need to be, but as has been the case in the last couple of weeks that just wasn't the case," Goudie said.
Desjardins made a quick impact with the Redblacks, leading them to three Grey Cup appearances in four seasons.
In its inaugural season in 2014 Ottawa posted a 2-16 record and in 2015 improved to 12-6 and advanced to the Grey Cup, losing 26-20 to Edmonton. In 2016 the Redblacks returned to the championship game, this time winning 39-33 over Calgary to break a 40-year drought of Ottawa football misery.
Two years later the Redblacks were back in the Grey Cup, but fell 27-16 to the Stampeders.
Since then, the Ottawa franchise has struggled. In 2019 Ottawa posted a 3-15 record which culminated with the resignation of head coach Rick Campbell.
After a season lost to the pandemic there was much optimism for 2021 under new head coach Paul LaPolice, but things have not gone as planned.
Goudie said the next few weeks will be pivotal to preparing for next year.
"I want to take these next four weeks to understand, to sit with football operations, to sit with our coaches and understand you know what they see," Goudie said. "They're the experts in this and what they see and what they feel that we need to be improving on and doing going into 2022 and get us back to what we expect from our organization, which is playing competitive football, winning home games and participating in home playoff games."
Assistant general manager Jeremy Snyder will act as interim general manager for the remainder of this season, but the search for Desjardins’ replacement will include both internal and external candidates.
“To the question why now? It's to give us some time to get a head start on this process and to understand kind of where we are, what we have and where we're going forward and talk to as many people as we can," Goudie said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 25, 2021.
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press