Redblacks' GM sees progress, but knows importance of results
The 2023 CFL campaign has not gone to plan for the Ottawa Redbacks.
Ottawa provided fans with some optimism after the first six games of the season, going 3-3 with wins over the Edmonton Elks, Calgary Stampeders, and the first-place Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the West Division.
But the Redblacks have lost six games in a row, leaving them with a 3-9 record and in last place in the East Division.
Despite the fact that the Redblacks have the same record after 12 games as they did last season, general manager Shawn Burke feels the team is headed in the right direction.
"I feel like things are different [from last year], but that's easy to say from the inside," Burke told TSN1200 after Tuesday's practice. "I feel, from our standpoint by the talent we've attracted here, we have a more talented team. I think we've had a more consistent product on the field in terms of effort and how we want to play. We always talk about being a fast and physical football team, and I think for the majority of the games this season you've seen that."
The Redblacks finished last year with a 4-14 record and fired head coach Paul LaPolice with four games remaining in the season. Bob Dyce took over the role on an interim basis, and Burke elected to remove the interim tag in December of 2022.
Burke has nothing but good things to say about the new coaching staff.
"I have a great deal of happiness with coach Dyce," said Burke. "He's in his first year as the head coach and he's done a great job of setting up his vision and expectation of where he wants this to go."
One of the unexpected turns this season has been the state of the quarterback position. The expectation going into the 2023 season was that Tyrie Adams would begin the season as the starting pivot, eventually to be replaced by veteran Jeremiah Masoli once he finished recovering from an Achilles injury that he suffered during the 2022 season.
However, disaster struck when Adams went down with an ACL injury and Masoli re-injured his Achilles, leaving little-used Dustin Crum to take the reins for the remainder of the season.
"Dustin had a very tough task," Burke said. "He was the fourth-string [quarterback] in training camp and he didn't get a lot of reps. To go from where he was to being a starter in a couple of weeks, there's going to be some bumps in the road.
"I see a leader out there that plays hard every play [and] his decision making has been excellent for the most part. He protects the football, leads the team down the field, and I think we're opening things up for him passing wise. He's going to continue to grow."
Burke recognizes that the moral victories he sees mean very little to the players when the record doesn't reflect the work they put in to improving. The 41-year-old general manager emphasized that the CFL is a results-based business, and the team needs to produce in the most crucial moments.
"You can keep preaching optimism, but you have to show results at the end of the day," said Burke. "We're not happy with our record right now. From a player's, manager's, and ownership standpoint, you want to see progression. But at the end of the day, we're judged by wins and losses."