He's gone from Redblacks, but Rick Campbell wants to be a head coach again
When Rick Campbell spoke to Mark Goudie Saturday, he told The Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group CEO/president he wanted to step aside as the Ottawa Redblacks head coach.
Goudie asked the coach to take 24 hours, think about it — not to get caught up in the emotions of a 42-32 home-field loss to the Montreal Alouettes, the Redblacks’ 15th loss of the season — a disaster from Week 3 on, when the Redblacks sunk deep into the quicksand.
On Sunday, Campbell, who had been the Redblacks’ coach since Day 1 in Season 1 (2014) and helped them get to three Grey Cups (winning in 2016), told Goudie he was done, it was over. Call it irreconcilable differences — with Redblacks GM Marcel Desjardins. There were many layers to this story, a gradual buildup of discontent.
“The conversation I had with Rick, I had two,” said Goudie at a Monday morning press conference. “One was where he let his views be known — I think he’s been carrying this around for awhile. The request I had of Rick was that he take 24 hours to make sure this wasn’t an emotional decision coming out of a difficult year and Friday’s game. We talked again after 24 hours and I think he was pretty comfortable with where he was. Credit to him, he came up front and didn’t feel he was going to in a position where he could give the Redblacks what they deserve next year.”
Goudie insists it didn’t come down to a Desjardins vs. Campbell thing. He wasn’t pressured into choosing one or the other — that wasn’t what the coach asked for.
“If you know Rick, he’s not that dude,” said Goudie. “He didn’t. We had a conversation that was more about Rick and his feelings about what he could and couldn’t do.”
There were howls of anger all over social media after the news of Campbell’s exit early Monday morning. Much of the venom was being spit at Desjardins. Fans, it seems, quickly forget the teams he helped construct went to the Grey Cup three times in four years. Broken record, right? I’ve always found Marcel to be extremely co-operative, fair and likeable, but that’s just me.
Campbell said he was left with “a bad taste,” after a “long list” of players and coaches were gone. But Desjardins insists Campbell was involved in the process of who stayed and who went.
“Rick was involved in all the personnel decisions we ever made,” said Desjardins. “He was involved in the expansion draft in 2013, he was involved in every Canadian college draft we were involved with, he was involved with everything we did in free agency. Every time we set out roster for a game, the coaches set the roster — that was not me. Rick was continually and regularly communicating with me about not only our current roster but our roster moving forward.
“We did multiple times sit down to discuss 2019, what would we have done differently in terms of the off-season and during the season, and thinking ahead to 2020. At no point during any of that did he say anything about having issues with any part of our dynamic.
“Obviously in a 3-15 season, I have to ask more questions, just like I answer more questions to Mark and to the ownership. Sometimes I’m asked questions by the ownership group that only the head coach would know. That’s the nature of the beast. But having said that, I was always trying to stay positive with him relative to trying to figure things out.”
It’s unlikely the highly respected Campbell will be unemployed long. The Edmonton Eskimos would be a logical landing spot if the team fails in the playoffs and head coach Jason Maas is gone.
“I definitely am up for (being a head coach) again,” said Campbell. “For me, it’s not burnout. Sometimes things in life have a shelf life, sometimes relationships have a shelf life.
“I’m really hopeful this is going to be maybe a good springboard for me and for the Redblacks. I’m a football-for-life (guy) and I’m going to be excited about the next chapter — I don’t know what that is. Sometimes when people do this, they know whats happening next. I actually don’t. The scary thing is it’s a bit of a leap of faith because I haven’t talked to anybody. I’m going to be sad for awhile, but I’m going to keep marching on and be ready for the next thing. Sometimes things need to happen in life to slingshot you to the next thing.
“Something in my gut tells me it’ll work out the way it’s supposed to work out. I’ve had a few things big in my life change over the last few years — personally and professionally. I’ve taken some leaps of faith and it’s worked out. I don’t want to be afraid to keep moving forward. I’ve been coaching for 21 straight years without taking a break. I’ve seen a lot of what to do and I’ve seen a lot of what not to do. I’ve been able to work with a lot of people who have had a lot of success, I’m going to make sure I draw on that knowledge.”
What happens next for the six-year-old franchise will help shape the next several years. Building back the confidence of a fan base that’s been soured by the loss of stars like Trevor Harris, Greg Ellingson, William Powell, SirVincent Rogers and now Campbell in the past year — add that to a dismal season — is crucial. How does the team appease RNation?
“I think it will be through actions, that will start with the hiring process that happens with the new head coach,” said Goudie. “I think we’ve built some thing pretty cool here with Redblacks football. We’ve got a good base. They’ve heard enough about the fact we went to three Grey Cup games in four years, that stuff is all water under the bridge. What we do next will be important. I don’t think we’re going to have questions fully answered until we start winning football games and people see we were able to recreate ourselves into the organization we expect to be.”
Winning solves everything, right?
THE NEXT HEAD COACH?
Here are some candidates the Redblacks may look at as their next head coach:
Noel Thorpe — the Redblacks defensive co-ordinator in 2018-19. In his 17th season as a CFL coach and has interviewed for head coaching jobs.
Bob Dyce — the Redblacks special teams co-ordinator since 2016. Was interim head coach in Saskatchewan in 2015 when Corey Chamblin was fired. Has been in the CFL since 2003.
Tommy Condell — the Hamilton Tiger-Cats offensive co-ordinator. A team in need of a productive offence may look to a guy who has had plenty of success with the Ticats this year. Condell has CFL coaching experience with Saskatchewan, Winnipeg and Toronto and has an Ottawa connection, too — he was the quarterbacks and receivers coach with the Renegades in 2004-05.
Paul LaPolice — the Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive co-ordinator/receivers coach. LaPo has head coaching experience (2010-12 in Winnipeg). Also has spent time with Toronto, Hamilton and Saskatchewan. Spent three years on the CFL on TSN panel before returning to the Bombers in 2016.
Stephen McAdoo — the Saskatchewan Roughriders assistant head coach and offensive co-ordinator for the past four seasons. Also has worked in Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal. And … if he’s hired, maybe he brings with him the Riders’ QB coach Steve Walsh, an 11-year NFL player who worked as a senior assistant to Marc Trestman in Toronto in 2017.
Mark Kilam — the Calgary Stampeders’ special teams co-ordinator and assistant head coach. In his 15th season of coaching in the CFL. Much different personality and demeanour than Campbell — very excitable. And … if he’s hired, maybe he brings along Calgary’s QB coach Ryan Dinwiddie as his offensive co-ordinator.
ALSO IN THE NEWS