On Monday morning, the Ottawa Redblacks fired the only general manager in the team’s history. After building a team that went to the Grey Cup in 2018, Marcel Desjardins allowed some of the team’s key contributors to walk to free agency and while you can argue if those players should have been brought back or not, you can’t argue about their replacements. Simply, not enough was done to fill the gaps.
“This morning I informed Marcel Desjardins that he would no longer be the general manager of the Ottawa Redblacks,” said Mark Goudie, the CEO of Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group. “It’s going to be a really sad day around here. Marcel was Redblacks’ employee number one back in 2013, and a lot of people care about him very much in this organization.
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“I can’t thank Marcel enough for the extraordinary commitment that he made to this organization,” he continued. “Nobody is more committed to the Redblacks, to RNation, and this community than Marcel Desjardins. I really hope his legacy is the good things that he was able to accomplish here.”
In the nearly seven seasons that Desjardins was the general manager of the Redblacks, the team appeared in three Grey Cups and made the playoffs four times. The team rebounded after a 2-16 expansion season making it to the Grey Cup in 2015 and winning it in 2016. He has brought in some great players including Henry Burris, Greg Ellingson, Brad Sinopoli, Antoine Pruneau, Lewis Ward, Richie Leone and many more. There have been great times and bad times, but after the last two seasons were filled with way more bad than good, the Redblacks thought it was time to make a change.
“Effective today, Jeremy Snyder will be our interim general manager, and Jean-Marc Edmé will be the interim assistant general manager,” said Goudie. “Starting tomorrow, we will have turned out attention to hiring the second general manager in franchise history.”
While the feeling from OSEG staff was sombre, Desjardins himself sounded quite different in his morning interview with TSN 1200.
“It was the team’s decision,” said Desjardins. “I got a call in my office at 6:21 this morning and Mr. Goudie came over at 6:30 and told me that they were making a change, and I said well, I think you guys are making a mistake, but it’s up to you guys. I said thanks very much, packed my bag and came home.”
“[They’re] just making a change,” continued Desjardins when asked if there was a reason given to him. “No reason, just making a change.”
“I think that we were on the right track despite what the record is,” said Desjardins. “There are obviously things that I could have done better, but there are things that a lot of people could have done better. At the end of the day, our record is what it is, but again, we do a lot of things the right way but we just don’t end up with the results.”
In sports, those results are critical. Winning and losing games directly impacts the business, and after winning just five games since the Grey Cup appearance in 2018, it seemed like the firing of Desjardins would be inevitable. Despite that, many people wanted to know why now was the best time to do it.
“I wanted to take these next four weeks to sit with football operations, to sit with our coaches and understand what they see,” said Goudie. “They are the experts in this. What they see and what they feel we need to be doing going forward into 2022 and get us back to what we expect from our organization witch is playing competitive football, winning home games, and participating in home playoff games.”
Perhaps one of the more complex pieces to the puzzle for the Redblacks in their search for a new general manager comes with their head coach, Paul LaPolice. In many cases, general managers want to bring in their own guy for the job, but that might not be what the Redblacks are hoping for.
“Paul’s got a couple years left on his contract and I expect that he’ll be here for a while,” said Goudie. “I like our coaching staff, it was one of the really optimistic parts of that horrible year that we didn’t play football in 2020.”
“I had an opportunity to start to get to know coaches that I normally wouldn’t get to know through our all staff meetings and interactions that we had. I was excited by the team that Marcel was able to put together with Paul and fill out the coaching staff.”
“It’s not my decision in terms of what the coaching staff looks like next year,” Goudie said. “I’m sure I’ll work with Paul and football ops to figure that out, but I like our football group.”
The search for a new general manager is on in Ottawa, the first time they have ever had to do so. The former Redblacks’ general manager left fans with these final words.
“Some of them have been great and some of them have been very difficult on me,” said Desjardins. “To those that were supportive, thank you. To those who weren’t, you got what you wanted.”