OTTAWA — The Ottawa Redblacks say they will conduct a "deep dive" after finishing out of the playoffs for a fourth straight CFL season, but any restructuring will not include a change at head coach.
General manager Shawn Burke said head coach Bob Dyce will "absolutely" be back as the Redblacks cleaned out their lockers Monday following a second consecutive 4-14 season.
Dyce was officially named the Redblacks head coach last December after having served as interim head coach for the last four games of the 2022 season.
"When I started this process last year, I talked about one of the biggest things being the leadership and creating a culture that has to happen here and I’ve seen those things," said Burke. "I see that with our players following him and benchmark he sets for them and I have seen those things."
Burke said he knows the team has to be better and believes "we have a head coach who can lead us in that direction."
That’s not to say there won’t be other changes. Exit meetings with players took place Monday and then Burke and Dyce will sit down and evaluate the staff.
"Obviously, this is the first season in which we're trying to build a foundation here," Dyce said. "I believe we're a better team and I think we do have a strong foundation…the foundation is there and we’re going to continue to grow on that.
"Once you’ve laid the foundation we’ve got to start working on the first floor and building the rest of the house."
The Redblacks haven't just missed the playoffs the last four years, they haven’t come close to qualifying. Ottawa has compiled an 14-54 record since 2018, when they advanced to the Grey Cup final in their last post-season appearance. This year they failed to get a single win against an East Division rival.
That’s not to say they haven’t had some bad luck.
For the second straight year, the Redblacks found themselves without their starting quarterback.
Ottawa signed veteran QB Jeremiah Masoli to a two-year contract before the 2022 season, but he suffered a season-ending injury in the fourth game of that campaign.
Masoli missed the first three games of this season, and season starter Nick Arbuckle struggled early and was replaced in the second game by Tyrie Adams.
Adams started and won the third game, but suffered a season-ending medial cruciate ligament injury.
Masoli was ready to return for the fourth game, but his return was short-lived. The 35-year-old played less than two full quarters before going down with a non-contact injury which proved to be a ruptured Achilles.
With a 1-3 record, the Redblacks turned to fourth-string QB Dustin Crum. He won his first two starts, and with a 3-3 record Ottawa appeared to be turning a corner. Instead, the team lost its next seven and the season was over.
"What we try to do is build off each success go forward from there," said Dyce. "Obviously, at that point (3-3) we did take a little turn for the negative."
Dyce and Burke agree there is a need for consistency. Rarely were the Redblacks able to play with sustained pressure for the entire 60 minutes. Far too many games were lost in the final five minutes.
"We're tired of being the team that fights hard, fights a lot," said Dyce. "We're not here for moral victories, we're here for victories."
Burke said part of the evaluation will include why this team has struggled to step up when needed most.
"In football it comes down to five or six plays in a game and consistently this year and last year those moments haven't gone our way," Burke said. "There’s got to be reasons behind it and we’re going to delve into those reasons and uncover everything we can to change those reasons."
Aside from Arbuckle, Ottawa's quarterbacks remain under contract.
Masoli, who’s recovery is on schedule, said he plans on being back and ready for training camp and feels like he has something to prove.
"I know how good I can be," he said. "I know how good our team can be. The city, the fans here, this organization here is ready for us to win and to have a statement season and put something on film that we can be proud of."
Crum, meanwhile, earned the trust of his teammates with his work ethic and commitment.
"The fact he stayed healthy is huge considering the past few years," said fullback Marco Dubois. "He goes to the gym the day after a game despite being bruised and battered and his understanding of the game is only going to grow with time.
"If he had a full training camp to prepare I can only imagine what he could accomplish considering what he was able to do with little preparation."
Ottawa will need to make decisions on a number of players including running back Devonte Williams, who had a 1,000-plus yards rushing.
Defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin IV and Bryce Carter are both up for renewal, as are DB’s Brandin Dandridge, Justin Howell and Monshadrik (Money) Hunter. Punter Richie Leone will also be looking for a new contract.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 30, 2023.
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press