Best Season/Worst Season Ottawa RedBlacks
Welcome to the second of a new occasional series looking at the best and worst seasons for each of the nine CFL teams. We started with the BC Lions. But now it is time to shift our attentions to the East. In the shape of the CFL’s most recent franchise, the Ottawa RedBlacks.
But first some ground rules. Some of the teams have been around long enough to post completely winless seasons. For example, the Toronto Argonauts went 0-6 in 1898. But is that really a fair comparison? I would say not, as it was a different era with much different teams, games and leagues. So we will be looking at the ‘modern’ era only. Which will also allow us to compare the best and worst seasons of all of the teams over the same time frame.
You might think the modern era should begin in the post CFL era from 1958 to present day. However, whilst the CFL may have had responsibility for the Grey Cup since 1958, we should note that Wikipedia suggests that “1954 is reckoned as the start of the modern era of Canadian football, in which the Grey Cup has been exclusively contested by professional teams”.
So based on that we will take 1954 as our starting point for our best/worst season comparisons.
But does that even apply to the RedBlacks who only started play in 2014? It’s open to debate because of the way the league views the franchise. Let’s take a look.
Three franchises are one – a little Ottawa Football history
The newest CFL franchise could make things complicated. Because there have been three franchises based in Ottawa affiliated with the CFL.
The RedBlacks may be the newest franchise in the CFL. They were awarded a franchise in 2008. Started football operations in 2013 and played their first season as an expansion club in 2014. Finishing that year with a 2-16 record. However there has been football in Ottawa, on and off, for much longer than this. The Ottawa Football club was founded in 1876. They would later become better known as the Ottawa Rough Riders. Arguably the greatest CFL team to be gone but not forgotten.
Despite a brief hiatus in the 1920’s when they were known as the Senators, the Rough Riders survived from 1876-1996. Ottawa had one of the oldest football franchises in North America up to that point. The Rough Riders won the Grey Cup nine times, last wining it in 1976 & last appearing in the big game in 1981.
After the sad demise of this once proud franchise following the 1996 season Ottawa was without a CFL team. That changed in 2002 when the Ottawa Renegades appeared. The Renegades struggled financially and went 23-49 over 4 years before disappearing.
That was the last CFL team in Ottawa until the RedBlacks were awarded a franchise in 2008. Wikipedia states that “For historical purposes, the CFL classifies the RedBlacks, Renegades and Rough Riders as one discontinuous franchise.” But the RedBlacks are still seen as an expansion franchise that is now in their eighth season.
So we will stick with that for this article – the best and worst RedBlacks seasons. Rather than the best and worst Ottawa football CFL seasons.
Best Season – 2015 or 2016? You decide!
Not to get too Dickensian. But the preceding information does mean that RedBlacks supporters will have seen the best of times and the worst of times over a pretty short time-frame with their new franchise.
Which is why it is no suprise to see them have their most successful regular season in 2015. And only championship team in 2016.
The most regular season wins came in 2015. That year a 12-6 record saw Ottawa sit atop the East Division. Winning eight of their last regular season games, (and the last four in a row), meant they went into the playoffs in good form.
Having made the Grey Cup against Edmonton, The RedBlacks sprung out to a 13-0 lead. Ottawa held further leads of 16-10, 19-17 & 20-18. Which almost saw the RedBlacks pull off the upset against their much favoured 14-4 counterparts. But they eventaully fell, finally losing 26-20. It was an incredible turnaround from their 2-16 debut season the year before and remains the franchise mark for wins.
But, the following season saw them go a step further. In 2016 they fell to an 8-9-1 record. But it was still enough to take the East Division. Unlike 2015 they were on a 3-5 run going into the playoffs. Once there the East Final saw them gain revenge over Edmonton with a 35-23 win. Followed by facing a heavily favoured 15-2-1 Calgary Stampeders team in the 2016 Grey Cup.
The RedBlacks pulled off a stunning 39-33 overtime victory to win the first CFL championship for the city of Ottawa in four decades. Easily one of the best Grey Cup games of the decade.
So there you have it. Most wins in 2015 and first championship off a worse record in 2016. An argument could be made for both being their best season.
Worst Season 2014
The RedBlacks worst season, statisitcally, is also their first season. The expansion RedBlacks started out by going 2-16 in 2014. Placing them last in the East Division. But they were an expansion team. Surely we should make an allowance for that when judging their record.
These RedBlacks were 1-1 in the pre-season before losing the opening two games of the 2014 season. The first win for the new franchise came in week 3 with a tight 18-17 win against the Toronto Argonauts.
Nine consecutive defeats ensued before a second win. This was a surprising 42-20 win over Winnipeg. Five further defeats rounded out the season. Despite some big defeats, the RedBlacks were competitive at times in their debut season. Aside from their two wins, there were nine defeats by 10 points or less. That included three games lost by 3 points or less including a double overtime defeat.
Perhaps the fact that football was back in Ottawa was more important than the record anyway. And two wins were supplemented by a number of competitive games. Fans would be far less forgiving of the 3-15 season in 2019.
Bonus Ottawa worst season
Focusing on the RedBlacks franchise for this article made sense. But that cannot take away from the fact that there has been an Ottawa team on and off dating back to 1876. And it seemed a shame therefore to miss out on that history. Especially when the 1988 Ottawa Rough Riders were so bad! So bad in fact that we are ‘celebrating’ their ineptitude here with a bonus worst season.
The 1988 Rough Riders finished 2-16. Scoring 216 points against 618 allowed. A truly terrible differential that left an average game score of 34-15 in their opponents favour.
Ottawa Rough Rider fans were used to lean times at this stage in the teams’ storied history. They had last seen a winning season a full decade earlier in 1978.
That said, in the 1981 season they had converted a 5-11 record into a Grey Cup apperance and somehow only just lost out 26-23 to a dominant 14-1-1 Edmonton team.
In the two seasons before this they had scraped together just 6 wins, going 6-29-1. But this 1988 season was the nadir of a terrible run of form. In terms of winning percentage (0.111), this was the worst season the franchise had since the founding of the CFL.
The team did however make some off field history. In 1988, Jo-Anne Polak was named the co-General Manager of the Rough Riders. She became the first woman in CFL history to be appointed to an executive post. And the first female General Manager of any professional sports franchise in North America.
Banner Image: Henry Burris in action for the Ottawa RedBlacks. Image from ottawaredblacks.com