With Just One Home Win in Two Seasons, REDBLACKS Fire Head Coach Paul LaPolice

The Ottawa REDBLACKS’ loss in B.C. on Friday night certainly wasn’t their worst game of the season. But it was, apparently, the final straw. The CFL club fired head coach Paul LaPolice Saturday after less than two seasons on the job. Special Teams’ Coordinator Bob Dyce takes over on an interim basis for the rest of the season.

After a dismal 3-11 season under LaPolice last year, the REDBLACKS spent a lot of money in free agency last winter, making wholesale changes so they wouldn’t go 3-11 again. With four games still to play, Ottawa’s record is exactly 3-11 once again.

Calls for LaPolice’s dismissal had gradually gotten louder in recent weeks on local sports radio and social media. As the losses piled up, there was strong criticism of the play-calling, lack of offence and decision making. Even in Friday’s 34-19 loss in BC, where quarterback Nick Arbuckle threw for 363 yards, the REDBLACKS didn’t get into the end zone once until the 58-minute mark when the game was long over.

It was already difficult to imagine LaPolice returning next year, but the REDBLACKS ultimately decided Saturday they needed to address the situation now.

“I have enjoyed working with Paul and thank him for his contributions to this team over the past two seasons; today isn’t an easy day,” said REDBLACKS’ GM Shawn Burke in a club statement. “In this business, sometimes a change is required to help move a team forward and that’s what we’ve done here. We’re fortunate to have a coach of Bob Dyce’s caliber and experience able to step up and take on this role.”

LaPolice was hired as the second head coach in REDBLACKS history in December 2019. An emotional Rick Campbell had just stepped aside, apparently not seeing eye to eye with former GM Marcel Desjardins. Desjardins was then fired by Ottawa last year, one season (and two calendar years) after hiring LaPolice.

“Paul is an excellent man who has put everything he has into this job,”

said OSEG CEO Mark Goudie. “But unfortunately, we haven’t won nearly enough games. We are committed to getting back to what RNation deserves, which is exciting and winning football.”

From 2015-18, Ottawa football fans enjoyed three Grey Cup appearances in four seasons. Since walking off the field at the 2018 Grey Cup, the club has only won 9 football games and just two at home. At 6-22, with one home win in two seasons, LaPolice’s record speaks entirely for itself.

But it’s also true that luck wasn’t on his side either. It’s very tough to win without a top, proven, healthy, starting quarterback. Last year, they thought they had one in Matt Nichols, but it turned out he’d lost his fastball after 2019 shoulder surgery followed by a canceled season. Nichols played in six games in 2021 then retired after the season. This year, they thought they had their man in Jeremiah Masoli, but he suffered a knee injury early in the season on a dirty, low hit from Saskatchewan’s Garrett Marino, a repeat offender who’s no longer in the league.

Lapolice released a farewell statement on Saturday evening.

“Although I am disappointed in what has happened, I understand that each year in pro sports, coaches are fired,” Lapolice said. “I am accountable for our record and we have not won enough games this season.

“I want to thank Roger Greenberg and the rest of the ownership group, as well as Mark Goudie and Adrian Sciarra. The leadership at OSEG are top notch character people, who have been extremely supportive and were a dream to work for.

“A narrative will be written that I was not Shawn Burke’s guy because he did not hire me. That cannot be farther from the truth. Since his opening press conference, he has been an outstanding, supportive general manager who always looks to find solutions and it was a pleasure to work with him this past year.

“I cannot thank enough the players, coaches, and staff that I had the honour and privilege to work with the past few years. The players are truly the best and most valuable part of the Canadian Football League and the REDBLACKS players are top notch high character individuals who will continue to represent OSEG in the community with honour and class.

“I have loved my time with the people of this football team, I loved my time interacting with the people of Ottawa and I will now love to spend some much-needed time with the family.

With Dyce at the helm, the REDBLACKS carry on, getting ready for a game in Montreal on Thanksgiving Monday. At 7-7, the Alouettes have a CFL playoff spot all but locked up, even though they fired their head coach much earlier this season.

By Steve Warne | Faces Magazine