The Ottawa Redblacks brought in Shawn Burke to be their next general manager and the second GM in franchise historyon Sunday.

     Burke, previously the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ senior director of player personnel and co-manager of football operations, replaced previous GM Marcel Desjardins, who served as the team’s general manager before their inaugural season in 2014.

     The Redblacks had a record of 3-15 in 2019, which led to the dismissal of head coach Rick Campbell. Despite bringing in Paul LaPolice – a Grey Cup-winning assistant coach with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers – resigning several vital players and bringing in new talent on both sides of the ball, the Redblacks did not see any significant improvement in 2021, going 3-11. 

     Marcel Desjardins was dismissed on October 25. The Redblacks spent almost two months conducting an in-depth and extensive search for a new general manager. Burke was one of many high-calibre football minds interviewed for the position. 

      Other strong candidates included assistant Redblacks’ assistant general manager Jeremy Synder, BC Lions director of US scouting Ryan Rigmaiden, Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ assistant general manager Ted Goveia. TSN CFL analyst Duane Ford was also considered, but he allegedly pulled his name out of the draw a few days before Burke was hired.

     Burke is a leader, a winner, brings passion to the team, works well with others, is a great football mind on both offence and defense, and knows how to build a team. 

     These qualities are attractive to any team and as a result, he was in the running for the general manager position of the Edmonton Elks. 

     The Redblacks were supposed to complete their search a few days before Christmas, but with the news of their number one choice being scouted by Edmonton, the Redblacks sped up the timeline and finalized Burke’s contract last Sunday.

     The Redblacks hope Burke brings a spark to the locker room and helps this team get back into its winning ways. 

     They’ve already signed a few key players like returner Devonte Dedmon, linebacker Avery Williams, kicker Lewis Ward, all-star punter Richie Leone, defensive backs Sherrod Baltimore Justin Howell, and Brandon Dandrige, but they have a lot of work to do before they can compete for a playoff spot.

     The first priority is fixing up the offensive line. This will give the QB more time to get set up in the pocket, the wide receivers more time to run their routes and get open for easy completions, which will help the offence keep drives alive, stay on the field longer, which would help limit the amount of time the defence spends on the field. The defence was on the field a lot last season, which tired them out.

      Burke knows how to build a team. He also served as the assistant GM and director of football operations for the Tiger-Cats, making two consecutive Grey Cup appearances. 

      Burke is a great candidate for the job, and the Redblacks organization and members of Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group are happy to have him as the next GM.

      Will his game knowledge be enough to help the Redblacks regain their status as playoff contenders? Only time will tell.

       Burke will have to nail the next CFL draft and acquire several free agents in positions of need (QBs, OLs, WRs, CBs, LBs) for the team to have enough talent to contend for the playoffs. One of his primary roles is to work with head coach Paul LaPolice to address the QB position. This is necessary because I don’t think the Redblacks can make the playoffs with their current quarterback and roster as a whole. 

     Despite several positive showings from QB Caleb Evans, I do not think he is the long-term answer yet. He needs more time to develop before a decision can be made on his status as a starter. Devlin “Duck” Hodges, who only played one game for the Redblacks, is similar. Matt Nichols did play injured this year, but he and Dominique Davis are not the answer, although Davis is an excellent QB on 2nd and 3rd and short scenarios.

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