Despite losing in the championship game last season, the Ottawa Redblacks gained some valuable experience for this year’s 104th Grey Cup. The Redblacks are a team full of veterans, but still young overall, and any bit of playoff experience will help them.
Redblacks Grey Cup Loss Gives Valuable Experience
During the Redblacks Grey Cup loss to the Edmonton Eskimos, it was clear Ottawa was a team lacking experience. The Redblacks dominated the first half, even forcing a kick-return fumble following an opening-drive touchdown. They scored on their first two drives and were up 13-0 six minutes in without the Eskimos touching the ball.
From there, the game went downhill for the Redblacks. Their inexperience allowed the Eskimos to climb back in the game. After the Eskimos scored the eventual game-winning touchdown with three minutes left, the Redblacks failed to muster any attack when their season was on the line.
Moments like that, especially the bad ones, bring a sports team closer, and gives them life-long lessons. The Redblacks did not perform better than they did last season, as they went 8-9-1 after going 12-6 last season. Yet despite it being a different season, the core of the team remains the same from a year ago. The team knows what it’s like to play in a Grey Cup game, how to prepare for it mentally and how to deal with the emotions that come with it.
Statistically, the Redblacks aren’t that much different from last season either. They threw for 5,806 yards last year, and added to that total with 6,191 yards this season. They once again have four 1000-yard receivers in Greg Ellingson, Chris Williams, Brad Sinopoli and Ernest Jackson. They will, however, be without Williams for the Grey Cup due to injury.
The Redblacks points total also improved from 464 to 486 and rushing yards increased from 1,536 yards to 1,691 yards.
The only real difference from last season is the defence. After leading the CFL in sacks (62) and interceptions (26), they recorded 42 sacks and only 16 interceptions. They also allowed 498 points compared to last season’s total of 454. Even with players like Damaso Munoz, Antoine Pruneau, Abdul Kanneh and Mitchell White, the Redblacks defence just is not as intimidating as they were a year ago.
In the end, the Redblacks are still very close enough to a carbon copy of last year’s team. Rick Campbell‘s troops look very much like the ones who marched into Winnipeg last season.
Even though the Calgary Stampeders won the Grey Cup in 2014, the team looks different from then, with a rookie head coach, and a changed receiving core. The Redblacks continuity from last season gives them an edge in that regard.
The 15-2-1 Stampeders are the clear favorites, but this is nothing new to the Redblacks. The 2014 expansion team were expected to miss the playoffs last year, let alone to appear in the Grey Cup. Many heavily favored the Eskimos in last season’s title game just like the Stampeders this season.
Even last week in the East Final, not many expected the host Redblacks to come out on top. The 10-8 Eskimos were supposed to show everybody why the crossover rule shouldn’t exist. Fans and media were almost getting prepared for an all-West Grey Cup before the game started.
The Redblacks, facing injuries, adversity, and a lot of snow, proved everybody wrong. As a team in the third season, they’ve had to do a lot of that, especially after going 2-14 in their first season.
The Redblacks are putting themselves in a position in which not many pro sports teams have been. Teams in their third year of existence aren’t supposed to win it all so soon.
The Arizona Diamondbacks won the World Series in 2001 after joining the MLB in 1998. The Florida Marlins also won the World Series in 1997, four years after its founding. Their neighbors, the Florida Panthers, began play in 1993 and reached a Stanley Cup Final in 1996. In European soccer, which does not expand leagues but rather promote and relegate teams to lower divisions, Leicester City won the English Premier League after only its second season back to the top division.
Successful expansion teams are few and far between, but they do have one thing in common: team unity. The Redblacks, after a Grey Cup loss, have developed that.
In football, like in life, after a knockdown, a player, or a whole team comes back stronger. Henry Burris epitomizes this, and the rest of the Ottawa team reflects it. After a Redblacks Grey Cup loss, the veteran-laden roster can only come back stronger.