Ottawa REDBLACKS Decade in Review

The Ottawa REDBLACKS haven’t been playing football for a decade yet, but there have been many things happening for years regarding this franchise. The REDBLACKS didn’t begin playing until the 2014 season, but we can still look at the steps taken to form this franchise and how it has gotten to the spot it is right now. We will be looking at everything the REDBLACKS have done since 2010 up until recently at the end of 2019.

The ride has been wild with getting the team back, to having them be terrible year one, Grey Cup trips a few years later, then back to being terrible last season. It’s interesting to see how the REDBLACKS started and look back at some of the good times.

This article will include some stats, videos, and other cool things I find while researching the teams history. Sit back and enjoy the trip down memory lane!

The first couple of years will be rather dull, as not much was happening. There was a lot of waiting for things to get done, and it was mostly about the stadium.

2010

The Ottawa REDBLACKS were originally slated to begin play for the 2010 season, and as we know, that wasn’t what happened.

http://www.frontpagemediagroup.ca/?portfolio=lansdowne-park

Cracks in the concrete structure on the south side caused the team to delay. After a series of events, the new start date would be the 2014 season.

2011

After the new plan for renovations was in place, 2011 was the year it was supposed to start. Once again, things went wrong, and it wouldn’t start until 2013.

2012

This was an important year for the REDBLACKS. In 2012, the Ottawa City Council voted in favour of Lansdowne in a 21-3 vote. I don’t know who didn’t vote in favour, but I’m positive they are not football fans. Aren’t politics fun?

2013

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor

As important as the years before 2013 were, 2013 is arguably one of the most important and interesting in the brief history of the Ottawa REDBLACKS. On January 30, Marcel Desjardins was named the first general manager of the new franchise. Just a few months later, Brock Sunderland was named the assistant general manager. Towards the end of December, Rick Campbell was named as the head coach for the REDBLACKS, and just in time for the expansion draft.

There were 3 rounds in the expansion draft, here’s a look at how they went

First round:

  1. Kevin Glenn (QB)
  2. Thomas DeMarco (QB)
  3. Moton Hopkins (DL)
  4. Jonathan Williams (DL)
  5. Chevon Walker (RB)
  6. Wallace Miles (WR)
  7. James Lee (OL)
  8. Carlton Mitchell (WR)

Second round:

  1. Patrick Lavoie (FB)
  2. James Green (LB)
  3. Keith Shologan (DL)
  4. Joe Eppele (OL)
  5. John Delahunt (FB)
  6. Alexander Krausnick-Groh (OL)
  7. J’Michael Dean (OL)
  8. Matthew Albright (OL)

Third round:

  1. Marwan Hage (C)
  2. Eric Fraser (S)
  3. Jason Porttinger (LB)
  4. Rory Kohlert (WR)
  5. Justin Capicciotti (DL)
  6. Zach Evans (DL)
  7. Andrew Marshall (DL)
  8. Jordan Verdone (LB)

Some of these picks were good picks, and others fell flat on their face. Perhaps the most known flop was picking Kevin Glenn only for him to never play for the REBDLACKS. It’s hard to immagine something like that becoming a good thing, but that was the case this time. Kevin Glenn not coming to Ottawa netted the REDBLACKS with Henry Burris. We all know now why this was a good thing, and to this date Burris is the best QB we have seen in Ottawa.

2014

  • Starting QB: Henry Burris
  • Leading receiver (yards): Marcus Henry (824)
  • Leading rusher (yards): Chevon Walker (458)
  • Record: 2-16 (4th in the East)
  • Interception leader: Brandyn Thompson (4)
https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/multimedia/fp-slideshow/Winnipeg-Blue-Bombers-vs-Ottawa-Redblacks-July-3-2014-265780621.html

The motto of the 2014 Ottawa REDBLACKS was all about being more than an expansion team. One thing is for certain about the 2014 team, and they certainly looked like an expansion team, if not worse. Receivers who couldn’t catch and running backs who couldn’t run for more than 5 yards to save their lives. The team was all around bad, but it was to be expected. Football was finally back in Ottawa, and the fan base couldn’t have supported the team any better.

For me personally, this was the first time I had ever really been a fan of a football team. I never was into the sport until the REDBLACKS won me over. The thing I remember the most in a game I was at was when the Saskatchewan Roughriders came to town. Around the 4 minute mark of this video you will see one of the wildest trick plays ever. As someone who hadn’t been watching football for all that long, my brain was fried. I had no idea what was going on, but that didn’t make it any less fun.

If you watched the entire video, you are probably thinking about just how terrible the 2014 Ottawa REDBLACKS were. You’re not wrong, they were the worst team in the league by a long shot. One thing that made it even worse for me was the fact that I missed the only 2 games they won. I was at 7 of the 9 home games and I missed the only 2 wins of the season. I wouldn’t see the REDBLACKS win a game until the 2015 season.

2015

  • Starting QB: Henry Burris
  • Leading receiver (yards): Chris Williams (1214)
  • Leading rusher (yards): Jeremiah Johnson (448)
  • Touchdown leader:
  • Interception leader: Abdul Kenneh (6)
Jean Levac / Postmedia

The 2015 season was magical in every sense of the word. The REDBLACKS signed players like Greg Ellingson, Brad Sinopoli, and Chris Williams. The team no longer felt like an expansion team. This team was something special for the people in Ottawa. Perhaps the most memorable moment for this team was the miricle on Bank Street. Mention those four words and everyone in Ottawa knows what you are talking about.

This “Road to the Grey Cup” video will sum up the season for you

The REDBLACKS may have lost the Grey Cup, but Ottawa was building something special, and that was evident after everything that happened over the course of the season. After being a 2-16 expansion team, the REDBLACKS were a force in the CFL, and that wouldn’t change until recently.

2016

  • Starting QB: Henry Burris & Trevor Harris
  • Leading receiver (yards): Greg Ellingson (1260)
  • Leading rusher (yards): Mossis Madu (490)
  • Touchdown leader
  • Interception leader: Mitchell White & Abdul Kenneh (3)
https://www.ottawaredblacks.com/2016/11/28/redblacks-rally-in-overtime-to-win-grey-cup/

Before the 2016 season even started, the Ottawa REDBLACKS signed the big fish in the free agent market, Trevor Harris. At the time, I was a huge fan of the signing. As time went on, I liked it less and less, but having him for the 2016 season was massive for the run that took the REDBLACKS to the grey cup. Early in the regular season, Henry Burris was injured and replaced by Trevor Harris who led the team to an 8-9-1 record. Under normal circumstances, that record won’t get you very far, but in a season where the East division was especially terrible, the REDBLACKS were fortunate enough not only to host a home playoff game, but have that game be the East final. After Burris returned from injury late in the season, he would be given what turned out to be his final opportunity to win the Grey Cup. The REDBLACKS blew past the Eskimos on the strength of Kienan LaFrance’s 157 rushing yards, as well as a touchdown from Greg Ellingson. You might recognize the touchdown after I show you this picture.

https://www.cfl.ca/2017/10/08/10-cfl-things-im-thankful-thanksgiving/

The REDBLACKS were back in the Grey Cup game. This time however, I was going to be there. I remember the emotions of the week before. The previous year it felt like the team was happy to be there, in 2016 it felt like the REDBLACKS wanted to win more. We were always hearing just how good Calgary was, but it didn’t matter. All I can remember about this game is the Abdul Kanneh tackle before the goal line, the Ernest Jackson touchdown in overtime, and me jumping up and down after the ball hit the ground on 3rd down at the end of the game. In that moment, my cowbell flew out of my hand in celebration. It felt like a dream. This was something I had never experienced before. We celebrated with the rest of the fans at the stadium for what felt like minutes, but it was hours. Moton Hopkins never put the cup down the entire night. These are some of the things I will never forget, and it was one of the best nights of my life.

The parade was also so much fun. Here’s a news segment about it!

One crazy thing about the game was the fact that Henry Burris almost didn’t get to play in the game. It’s hard to imagine how the game would have gone if it was Trevor Harris as the QB for the night. Based on how things went in the future, I’m not convinced that we would have a Grey Cup to celebrate yet with this franchise. This is a run that Ottawa won’t soon forget. It took 40 years to win the Grey Cup again, and we all hope it doesn’t take that long again.

2017

  • Starting QB: Trevor Harris
  • Leading receiver (yards): Greg Ellingson (1459)
  • Leading rusher (yards): William Powell (1026)
  • Touchdown leader
  • Interception leader: Antoine Pruneau (4)
https://www.cfl.ca/2017/11/12/harris-not-making-excuses-redblacks-loss/

Fresh off being the Grey Cup champions, the REDBLACKS lost QB Henry Burris after he was told he would not be starting. The Keys were handed to first time starter, Trevor Harris. This was a frustrating season for REDBLACKS fans. Ottawa was hosting the Grey Cup, and the team was terrible to kick off the season. After getting a tie at home to the Stampeders to start the season, the REDBLACKS were 1-6-1 going into their week 9 game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. This was the only season since the REDBLACKS joined the CFL in 2014 where someone other than Hamilton or Ottawa won the East, and it would be the Toronto Argonauts hosting the East final. The REDBLACKS managed to salvage the season ending at 8-9-1 for the second consecutive season, finishing 2nd in the East.

Say all you want about Trevor Harris, but this was one of the first times where I began to question if he was as good as people made him out to be. My opinion on the matter is he was not the guy to lead the REDBLACKS to a Grey Cup in the future, and that mostly stemmed from an average at best East final. Sure, he threw for almost 500 yards, but the offence only scored 20 points. It’s great to put up huge numbers, but if you can’t score then it doesn’t matter. You can’t say there was no help around either. There were some great weapons for Trevor.

Not everything was the fault of Trevor Harris on the year however. The defence in 2017 was not good. There were so many things that needed to improve to get this team back to the level it was at in 2015. In a year where the REDBLACKS were hosting the Grey Cup, the season going the way it did was a punch in the gut for the fans. Call us spoiled or call us greedy, we expected better then a sub .500 record for the second season in a row.

2018

  • Starting QB: Trevor Harris
  • Leading receiver (yards): Brad Sinopoli (1376)
  • Leading rusher (yards): William Powell (1362)
  • Touchdown leader
  • Interception leader: Derico Murray (5)
Jason Franson / THE CANADIAN PRESS

After a disappointing 2017 season, the REDBLACKS found a way to bounce back, and in a big way. Brad Sinopoli smashed records, William Powell played like the best back the REDBLACKS have ever had, and Trevor Harris at times looked like the best QB in the CFL. The biggest problem with the REDBLACKS in this season for me personally was incosistancy on the offensive side of the football. Ottawa had a good defence, and the team benefited from it obviously. The REDBLACKS would finish the season 11-7, but the REDBLACKS biggest bugaboo was the Calgary Stampeders. Early in the season, the REDBLACKS went to Calgary and played terrible. Two weeks later, the Stamps came back to Ottawa and the REDBLACKS played even worse. I could go off on a tangent about this as it is the main reason I’m not a fan of Harris, but that’s something for another time.

About that Harris guy though, he put up monster numbers in the East final against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to get the REDBLACKS to the Grey Cup in Edmonton. Remember when I said the Stampeders were the REDBLACKS biggest bugaboo though? That didn’t change. Harris struggled to move the offence, and the defence couldn’t make key stops. Even the special teams struggled to do anything. The three times the REDBLACKS played the Stamps in 2018 they played terrible. It just wasn’t a championship team at the end of the day. The team lacked mental fortitude and inconsistant play from everyone (especially the QB) was the downfall of the team.

This was the year that everything changed.

2019

  • Starting QB: Dominique Davis & Jonathon Jennings
  • Leading receiver (yards): Dominique Rhymes (1056)
  • Leading rusher (yards): John Crockett (454)
  • Touchdown leader
  • Interception leader: De’Chavon Hayes (3)
Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com

Things have changed big time. Trevor Harris left, Greg Ellingson left, Diontea Spencer went to the NFL, and Rico Murray left for Hamilton. Marcel Desjardins hitched his wagon to Dominique Davis and Jennings, and it really backfired on them. Brad Sinopoli was the only big name player on the offence, and he could’t get it going. We saw three QBs play during the season, and each one was worse than the other. There were very few good things about the 2019 team. This was the year to forget. When the team began in 2014, we expected a poor season. For a team that was in the Grey Cup game the year prior, to finish 3-15 was an absolute embarrassment.

That’s all I’m saying about the season.

After the season, the only coach the REDBLACKS have ever had was let go, and Paul LaPolice was hired in his place. Free agency is coming up in February, and everyone and thier mother knows what the REDBLACKS need. Things can be turned around quickly in the CFL, so keep your hopes up and don’t stop supporting the team after one bad season.

The decade has been a very interesting one for sure. Its a unique one that no other CFL team was through. From a stadium causing a delay to the franchise, to going to 3 Grey Cups in the first 6 seasons of play, the REDBLACKS have let us see just about everything that can happen in the CFL. Things have been looking down since the end of the 2018 season, but 2020 could be much better for our REDBLACKS. I hope to see you at the stadium next season, and I hope to see some jerseys of our new star QB walking around come June! Here’s to the next 10 years of REBDLACKS football!

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