After deciding to move on from former Head Coach Paul LaPolice, the Ottawa Redblacks find themselves in search of their next coach. With Bob Dyce, a former CFL Head Coach serving as the interim head coach the Redblacks are a 1-2 football team with one week left to go. However, this team has looked much more competitive in every game since making this move. Finishing out the season with some hope could help draw in the next coach. Let’s take a look at some up-and-coming options within the league currently.
Up and Coming Coordinators
Typically teams want to find the next big name when they start a coaching search. Every team will sprinkle in some veteran coaching options among the hot names. I believe current interim head coach Bob Dyce will receive consideration as the long-term option as head coach. As mentioned before there was an immediate change in the demeanor and performance of this team as soon as Dyce took over.
Before making the move to Dyce, Paul LaPolice and company had allowed two blowout games. Losing to Toronto 45-15, and following that up with a 34-19 loss to BC. LaPolice was let go, and Dyce was given the reigns 4 days after the second loss. Given the job during a bye week, Dyce had time to prepare a game plan for how to turn this team around. He immediately led the Redblacks to a victory.
Since that first victory, the Redblacks lost two games. It was how they lost these games, that speaks to the job that Dyce has done. Montreal (8-8) was able to defeat Ottawa on October 14th. They won by just 4 points thanks to what may as well have been a walk-off touchdown by Dominique Davis with less than 3 minutes left in the game.
The following week, it was more of the same. The Redblacks lost this match-up as well, but again the team was in the game until the bitter end. This time losing by just 3 points on a buzzer-beater field goal attempt. Ottawa had tied the game up with less than 2 minutes remaining in the game. The Ti-Cats found a way to drive downfield, and kick a field goal as time expired taking with them the victory. These three games have been a near 180-degree turn from where the team was headed before his chance to run the team. If I were Ottawa, I would look very closely at Dyce as a long-term candidate.
Buck Pierce- Offensive Coordinator/QB Coach, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Buck Pierce is a name that CFL fans should certainly know by now. He played nine seasons as a quarterback for the BC Lions, and Winnipeg Blue Bombers. From 2005-2013 he racked up 67 starts and played in 125 games total during his career. He would retire with over 15,000 passing yards and 1,600 rushing yards. Adding a total of 90 touchdowns along the way. He knows the quarterback position well.
This has been reflected by the performance of his quarterback, Zach Collaros. Collaros is a veteran quarterback who has played since before Pierce even left the game as a player. Pierce began his coaching tenure overseeing running backs for two seasons in Winnipeg. He traded in running backs for quarterbacks in year 3. After taking over the quarterback room in 2016 things were looking up.
In 2016 the Blue Bombers’ roster looked dramatically different. Matt Nichols was your starting quarterback, with Drew Willy the backup, and Kevin Glenn the #3 quarterback. These three men combined for a 69.9% completion rate, 5,155 yards, 23 touchdowns to just 13 interceptions. Nichols was able to achieve a lot of firsts under Pierce at the time. This was the first season he was the primary starter, the first time he topped 10 touchdown passes, and threw for over 1,800 yards.
From Back-Ups to Ballers
This in itself shows the effect Pierce had on Nichols, and the rest of his quarterbacks at the time. As if this wasn’t evidenced enough, he led Nichols to a career year in 2017. Playing in 18 games, Nichols managed career-highs in passing attempts, completions, yards, and touchdowns. He would again do this with Collaros. Signing with the Blue Bombers for the 2019 season, Collaros was brought in as the primary backup behind Nichols. After just one season, a change was made. Collaros, another veteran who hadn’t been a full-time starter, proved Pierce’s abilities once again.
Collaros went on to play in 30 games over the next two seasons, producing 544 completions, 7,300 passing yards, and 55 touchdowns to just 19 interceptions. This is the same quarterback who had: Never topped 3,400 yards passing, never threw more than 25 TDS in a season, and never had back-to-back seasons with over 9 yards per attempt. It was no coincidence this happened to coincide with Pierce’s promotion to offensive coordinator.
Pierce has held this position since the 2020 season and already has shown to be one of the best offensive minds in the league. His track record with quarterbacks alone shows me he would be a perfect candidate to take over the Ottawa Redblacks. He would inherit a team that has a veteran nearing the end of his career, which seems to be the players Pierce thrives with. In the meantime Pierce can start trying to find the long-term answer at the position to develop behind Masoli, maybe that QB is already on the roster. He should be very high on the list of candidates after the stretch he has had as the offensive coordinator in Winnipeg.
Pete Costanza Wide Receivers Coach/Passing Game Coordinator, Toronto Argonauts
In Toronto, Ryan Dinwiddie serves as the head coach and offensive coordinator. However, Coach Costanza has stepped up as his passing game coordinator in 2022. This move has in turn helped Mcleod Bethel-Thompson to the top of the passing leaders of the league. Currently, Bethel-Thompson is first in passing yards by over a 500-yard margin. This is no accident.
Before arriving in Toronto, Costanza coached the Blue Bombers’ running backs. He was able to win a Grey Cup in 2021 with the team in really his only season. He had also held the title for the 2020 season that was canceled. The draw to Costanza is he has served as a head coach in the AFL before making the leap to the Canadian Game. From 2002 to 2007 Costanza coached four different franchises as their Head Coach.
He began his coaching career by jumping right into a very prominent position with the New Jersey Red Dogs. Going from a retired player to Assistant Head Coach is no small feat. He spent a total of four seasons as an AHC or offensive coordinator before receiving his first chance as a head coach.
First Time Head Coach
He had a rough first season with the Columbus War Dogs, producing a 4-12 season. He was let go and landed with the Albany Conquest. He rebounded quickly with a 13-3 record. This performance led to a promotion from the AF2 to the AFL with the Columbus Destroyers. He served as head coach and offensive coordinator. Inheriting the team from a familiar face…none other than Ron Selesky, who currently serves in the Ottawa Scouting Department.
Over the next two seasons, he was only able to muster an 8-24 record and was let go. He would bounce back to the AF2 with the Albany Conquest once again. Albany had won just 10 games in two seasons since he had left. Unfortunately, this reunion didn’t end in the success anyone had hoped. They would win just 11 games in two seasons. Despite this, Costanza managed to find his way into the Wide Receiver Coaching position for Calgary. He would spend the next 12 seasons in this position. From 2008-2019 he remained with the Stampeders before moving to Winnipeg, and later Toronto. Costanza in my mind makes a lot of sense given his connections, and his time in the Arena Game as a head coach. I believe he would be prepared to step back into a head coaching role after serving in this capacity for six seasons and now has been in the CFL for 15 years.
Jason Shivers, Defensive Coordinator Saskatchewan Roughriders
Jason Shivers is a fairly young coach. At just 39 years old, he quickly rose through the ranks in the CFL. Retiring from his playing career in 2011, he started as a defensive assistant with the Toronto Argonauts in 2013. He was hired under Head Coach Scott Milanovich and Defensive Coordinator Chris Jones. This time with the Argos proved to be crucial to the rest of his career.
Following his only season with Toronto, Chris Jones accepted the head coaching position for the Edmonton Eskimos. He brought Shivers with him as his new defensive backs coach, allowing Shivers to oversee his old position group. However, the pair of coaches spent just two seasons with Edmonton, before moving on to Saskatchewan. Both coaches would assume the same positions they held with the Eskimos the season before.
This time, Shivers stayed after watching Chris Jones move on in 2019. When Jones left, former special teams coordinator Craig Dickenson was promoted to head coach. Given the relationship that Shivers had formed with Dickenson over the last 5 years together, Shivers was promoted to defensive coordinator. Since then these two men have led the Roughriders to a 28-20 record. A record that looked a lot better before this season.
Shivers has never been a head coach, but the same could have been said about Dickenson before his promotion. An interesting connection that Shivers has, is Dirk Koetter his college head coach. Koetter recently has seen his career fall off track after a stint as the head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Could Koetter be a potential offensive coordinator for Shivers?
Brent Monson Defensive Coordinator Calgary Stampeders
Monson is a coach who has spent 13 seasons in the CFL all with the same team. He received a promotion to defensive coordinator in 2019 but served in several other capacities along the way. Including running backs, linebackers, defensive line, and strength and conditioning coach. Monson has been crucial to the continued success of the team during his time there.
While this would be a very unique path to being a head coach, his performance, and the team’s performance during his tenure say all about his value to the organization. Making his bones under names like John Hufnagel, Craig Dickenson, Chris Jones, Scott Milanovich, and current XFL Coach Corey Chamblin. He has had a mentorship program under future head coaches or coordinators every year of his career.
What I like the most about a potential move to get Monson:
Monson is a guy who is very in tune with what he knows and doesn’t know. When he was forced to step in as the defensive coordinator for the first time, when DeVonne Claybrooks was hospitalized, he spoke about it being a group effort. I would expect he would take the same approach to being a head coach.
Bring in coordinators you know and trust, and let them run their units, while Monson leads the way. We have seen time and again when coaches try to run their former units. Typically they often fail as a head coach because they have too much on their plate. Monson appears to be a coach who is smart enough to know in his first chance as a head coach, he will need to focus on the task at hand. Trust and experience will be too very key factors that Monson seeks out in his assistants.
These are just five candidates in the sea of coaching candidates right now, but all of these men bring their own merits to the position. It will be very interesting long-term to see how the Redblacks front office chooses to lean in their search. Will the next head coach be an experienced head coach or a rookie head coach? Will they lean toward the offensive-minded coaches to revive what was supposed to be a competent offense? This will be one of the better storylines to follow this off-season.