JONES: Brock Sunderland extends stay with Edmonton Football Team
It was labeled as breaking news.
Except, that was news to Brock Sunderland.
The announcement by Edmonton EE that he’d signed an extension through 2023 as general manager, he said, is actually a stale story.
“We actually agreed to it and finalized all the details at this time last year and I actually signed the contract back in January,” he said.
“We were going to announce it at the annual general meeting in May like we did after the 2017 season. Then COVID-19 hit and the world went upside down and we didn’t think it was the appropriate time.”
Despite the current coronavirus numbers, this is not a bad time. And it should be welcomed as a good news story by Edmonton football fans.
At a time of instability around the league, thanks to fumbling the ball repeatedly in missing an entire season combined with significant changes in B.C., Toronto and Montreal this announces stability.
And with the change away from Eskimos as the team name, a new CEO in Chris Presson in place and unpopular changes such as the removal after 49 years of Dwayne Mandrusiak, the extension of Sunderland should give Edmonton fans a sense of stability in ‘Football Ops’ that most certainly should welcomed going forward for the longtime flagship franchise as well.
“Brock has done a nice job and we were pleased to extend him,” said Presson. “He’s proven to be a leader not just on the football side of our business but within our business as a whole. He’s a hard-worker that has proven he knows how to build a football team that contends and his heart is full of passion.
“We need continuity in our team leadership and this is another piece that promises that,” he added.
“I like Edmonton and the organization. I’ve really fallen in love with the city and I consider it home now,” said the native of Great Falls, Montana.
“Chris and I already have a great relationship and bringing Scott Milanovich on as head coach, who I worked with before and have a lot of faith and confidence in … everything just aligned the way you’d want it to align,” said Sunderland.
Stability had everything to do with the extension.
“We wanted Scott and I to be congruent in terms of our contracts. We wanted the leadership to be in place for quite a while so when we’re discussing players and implementing plans there’s cohesion and consistency throughout. We don’t have to change it every other year.
“With this extension and the fact that Scott and I are congruent in our contracts is that when we talk to free agents we can hopefully sell them on continuity.”
By Edmonton EE standards, on the surface, Brock Sunderland hasn’t been a particularly successful general manager. He hasn’t got the team into or won a single Grey Cup or even provided a home playoff game.
In four years since replacing fired Ed Hervey as general manager, Sunderland has a 29-25 win-loss record including this year’s 0-0 CFL coronavirus pandemic shutdown seas. He has, however, managed to get the team into both a Western Final as a third place team and an Eastern Final as a fourth-place crossover team.
Coming off four seasons as assistant general manager in Ottawa that included two trips to the Grey Cup, winning the championship in 2016, the year after Edmonton won the 14th and most recent title in team history, Sunderland was credited with having done a remarkable job bringing in talent when Hervey signed quarterback Mike Reilly away from the team involving an alleged separate deal unauthorized by late owner David Braley and CEO Rick Lelacheur. Hervey submitted his resignation.
But that was then. This is now.
“It’s going to be the most unorthodox free agency time probably in league history. I think there’s uncertainty across the board just because of not being able to have this last season.”
You wouldn’t want a first-year general manager going into this. And you can make the case that Sunderland may be uniquely qualified for the situation because of the free agent frenzy he handled so brilliantly two seasons ago but also in putting together the roster for Ottawa as an expansion team.
“Maybe the biggest thing that correlates to this is what we went through in Ottawa when you are building something ground up,” he said.
But I’d lean more to that wild and crazy free agency year with the ridiculously high number of high profile free agents coming and going.
“You know what’s nuts about that is that I thought ‘It will never be like that ever again.’”
Sunderland isn’t making any promises involving home playoff games and Grey Cups going forward.
“What I can guarantee is maximum effort,” he said.
“I know that sounds cliché. But pro football is a unique industry. The goal is to win a championship and I want that as much or probably more than anyone and I know Scott and I are going to work as hard as humanly possible to make that happen.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020