Lions’ new GM combo already working on year ahead

The tandem has been hard at work for weeks as preparations for a triumphant return to the field in 2021 heat up. So the fact both Rick Campbell and Neil McEvoy will have Co-GM as part of their respective titles really doesn’t change the outlook.

Still, it is a nice feather in the cap for both football lifers who have taken vastly different paths to their respective roles with the Lions. Both men discussed the developments on episode 41 of 1st and Now, the official Lions podcast.

Campbell may be a career coach. But in today’s pro football world, player evaluation and roster decisions are a big part of a head coach’s job description.

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“It’s been a crazy year, to say the least, but I’m definitely excited and looking forward to it. Even though we haven’t played, I’ve had a really good experience here,” said an excited Campbell.

“Where the GM role comes in is that link between the coaching staff and the personnel department. When the personnel department and the coaching staff are working well together and really communicating well, that’s a good thing. We have every opportunity to do that here. That’s the part I’m looking forward to.”

McEvoy has been with the club since 1995 when he was hired as a ticket sales representative. Not too long after that, he made the move to media relations. At a time when this thing called the Internet was fairly new and not nearly as essential to doing day-to-day business, his computer skills came in handy.

General Manager Adam Rita and the coaching staff needed someone who knew how to transfer the playbook from written form onto a computer software program.

“Joe Paopao, Adam Rita and all those guys thought that was pretty cool,” explained McEvoy.

“Instead of hand-drawing it, I could just put it onto a computer. That was my first step into the football operations world. At that point, if you would have asked me, I wanted to be a coach.”

Rita, Lions GM at the time, would eventually task McEvoy with scouting duties around the turn of the century. Wally Buono’s arrival in 2003 allowed the former Surrey Rams receiver to take more steps up the organizational ladder.

McEvoy was promoted to Director of Football Operations in 2013 and he would ultimately do a lot of the day-to-day GM roles when Buono himself was focused on coaching. Just sit back and go down the list. The lifelong Lions fan had the luxury of learning from some of the best personnel men this league has ever seen. He mentions the late Bobby Ackles as well as guys like Bob O’Billovich and Roy Shivers for also showing him the ropes.

“All of those guys gave direction to me that I was able to bank and count on and use daily. I’m still using the stuff they taught me now.”

Neil McEvoy

“I’m a combination of all those men who have worked with the BC Lions and in the Canadian Football League. Greg Mohns, Adam Rita, Joe Paopao, all those guys have given me opportunities, enlightenment and what it takes to run a football team.”

Co-GM Tandem Part Of A Bigger Group

It’s a formula not often seen at the top of a pro sports team’s management hierarchy. Typically, one person has the title of General Manager. Or in some cases, a President will oversee a management group that includes a GM. These days, that one is more common in hockey

When you factor all of that in, Monday’s official news that the role of General Manager won’t be filled by just one person may have been a surprise for some outside observers. But both Campbell and McEvoy insist they will continue to work as a group along with Director of US Scouting Ryan Rigmaiden, head Canadian Scout Rob Ralph and Geroy Simon, who will continue to play a big role in scouting the Global talent along with assisting at the professional scouting level down south.

“Last year when Rick was brought on board, we worked well together. Ed Hervey brought everyone together and the group we had for the 2020 season was going to be a good group,” added McEvoy.

“Our football team was going to be a good team, and that starts at the top, which is the head coach. The head coach is the hierarchy of your organization and Rick does a good job of communicating to everybody what his expectations are of his players and his staff around him. I think we have a great start to getting on the field in 2021 led by Rick Campbell who is our head coach and will lead us in the right direction and rudder the ship. It’s going to be good.”

Coaching Staff Locked In

Along with the return of those scouts in all key areas, the Lions also announced eight members of the coaching staff who were signed before 2020 are back on board for next season. The only minor change is that Danny O’Brien will take over the role as running backs coach in place of Beau Walker who had resigned back in August.

The former quarterback O’Brien was originally brought in as an offensive assistant. That continuity on the staff will be big for Campbell as he patiently awaits his long-awaited debut on the Lions sideline.

“That’s a big step to our off-season and to build momentum to get ready for 2021.”

Rick Campbell

“I was really excited to work with these guys this last season and to have that continuity, even though we didn’t play, there was still a lot of meetings that took place as far as playbooks, philosophy, all those types of things; and even getting to know the players. It literally helps us hit the ground running. That’s a big step. I’m proud to have these guys.

“They’re good coaches, they’re also good guys. That’s been my experience in the CFL and football in general. You want to try and put as many quality people in the building as you can. Obviously, talent matters but also that they’re good people so when you show up to work every day it’s a good environment. I think all of these guys fit that bill. I’m looking forward to it.”

The Christmas checklist is almost complete. Now we just want the official green light to be back on the field next May.

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