Redblacks GM Desjardins' three-year-old prediction proven correct
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Ottawa Redblacks general manager Marcel Desjardins was right.
Desjardins surprised many at his first news conference as Redblacks GM in 2013 when he laid out lofty expectations for the expansion franchise.
"It's going to be a process," he said at his introduction. "I would say hopefully that by the second year we're more competitive and the third year we're competing for a playoff spot if not a Grey Cup."
Three years later, Desjardins addressed media again as architect of a Grey Cup champion after the Redblacks defeated the heavily favoured Calgary Stampeders 39-33 in overtime on Sunday in the 104th CFL final.
Reminded of his comments on Monday, Desjardins reflected on the past three years and the growth of the Redblacks.
"I certainly thought it was possible," said Desjardins. "You don't know exactly how each year will go and the first year obviously was a little more difficult than we had hoped, but again the plan was still there even though the wins weren't there in the first year. We matured last year even though we lost, but I think that gave us some resolve in terms of what it would take to take that final step and fortunate to get it done (Sunday)."
While much of the credit for the Redblacks achievements goes to head coach Rick Campbell and veteran quarterback Henry Burris, Desjardins was instrumental to the Redblacks' overall success.
Desjardins was involved in every decision from the selection of Campbell as the head coach, to the signing of players and the development of the franchise from the ground up to entice quality players to sign in Ottawa.
The result was Ottawa winning its first CFL title since the Rough Riders were victorious in 1976 thanks to Tony Gabriel's fourth-quarter catch.
"I'm just proud to have been able to do it and proud to have been a part of bringing what we have here in Ottawa now which is the first Grey Cup in 40 years," said Desjardins. "My first exposure to this league was in '76 when that guy from Burlington made that catch at Exhibition Stadium so for me this kind of brings it full circle.
"It takes a team off the field too and the hires that I've made have turned out to be pretty good, whether that be Rick and the coaching staff, the personnel department and even the support staff so it's a group effort on all levels."
With the victory Campbell and his father Hugh, who won five Grey Cups as head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos, became the first father/son duo to win Grey Cups.
From the day he accepted the head coaching position Campbell said he and Desjardins were determined to create a winning environment.
"I remember talking with Marcel when we had no coaches, no players was that we were just going to try to get as good as we could as fast as we could," said Campbell. "Not put any limitations on anything and just try and do a good job and work every day. Full credit to our players for stepping up and getting it done."
The Redblacks will wrap up their celebrations with a parade Tuesday afternoon.
Noticeably absent on the flight home was Burris, the game MVP, who chose to return to Ottawa with his family on the train. The 41-year-old quarterback said after Sunday's win that he would take the month of December to spend time with his family then decide on if he'll retire or play another season of football.