Dyce leads unique, talented REDBLACKS staff into 2023

OTTAWA — Freshly named the head coach of the Ottawa REDBLACKS in early December, Bob Dyce took a moment to let what was happening fully sink in.

The Winnipegger who had played receiver for the Manitoba Bisons and had started coaching junior football in 1992, whose CFL coaching journey started with an unpaid guest coaching role with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in their 2002 training camp, had finally landed his first full-time head coaching gig. He let it wash over him and reflected on his journey.

An endlessly blinking and buzzing phone connected his past and the present.

“It was certainly ringing off the hook,” Dyce told Donnovan Bennett, as the two dove into a lengthy conversation. 

“Probably the greatest thing about that is you have people reach back…people you haven’t talked to literally in decades congratulating you. It wasn’t just professional players. It was kids that I’d coached, young men at the University of Manitoba, guys I haven’t played with in years, guys I had coached in junior football and the guys I’d grown up with in Winnipeg playing minor football. 

“It really did give me an opportunity to reflect on where I came from. Myself growing up in Winnipeg playing, watching guys in the CFL like Warren Moon and J.C. Watts. I really never had a thought at that time that I’d rise to the position that I have. You reflect on the positives and the negatives and some of the challenges that you’ve faced over over those years and things that you’ve overcome.” 

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Dyce’s hire as the REDBLACKS head coach came after two decades in the CFL (The Canadian Press)

The third head coach in REDBLACKS’ history, Dyce is the organization’s first Black head coach. An interim head coach twice in his career — first in 2015 in Saskatchewan, then again this past season in Ottawa — Dyce’s two-decade journey through the CFL has him leading a team for the first time.

When he assembled his staff, he turned to former Montreal Alouettes head coach Khari Jones as his offensive coordinator and to Barron Miles — the Als former defensive coordinator — for his D.C. They are the league’s only such Black trio.

Dyce said in piecing his staff together, he looked at it like any other business, where you want strong people in supporting roles. Having known Jones from his playing days in Winnipeg and having worked with him and Miles on the Riders’ staff between 2012 and 2014, then given the experience they’d since gained, Dyce was drawn to them.

They were the two most qualified guys and had done a fantastic job throughout their careers,” Dyce said.

“I was blessed to have two guys like that, as qualified as they are and (available) at the time I was hired.”

Jones, who was also in the running for the REDBLACKS’ head coaching job but happily joined Dyce’s staff when he received the call, sees the significance in Dyce’s hires.

I think the cool thing is that young people can see that. People can know it’s attainable,” Jones said. 

Whatever role that I get, I just want to make sure that I’m representing it well and doing the right things and giving my all to it. I want the the next generation to see that as possible. I think we’re all qualified, we can do this job at a high level, but I want others to know that they can do it too.”

Khari Jones was in consideration for the REDBLACKS’ job but was happy to join Dyce’s staff (Kevin Sousa/CFL.ca)

REDBLACKS’ general manager Shawn Burke was impressed with the leadership, honesty and directness that Dyce brought to the team last season when he stepped in as interim head coach in the wake of Paul LaPolice’s dismissal. Burke said he was a sounding board for Dyce as he went through his staff hiring in December.

Having a staff with a diverse background, including Dyce, Jones and Miles that all have playing experience and combined decades spent in the CFL, only strengthens the team and organization as a whole.

“Bob was a resource this (past) year a couple of times, when I’d just sit down and say, ‘Hey, how would you handle this? What would you think about it?’ and learn from it,” Burke said.

“Certainly I think it’s a benefit to us but most of all I think it’s a benefit to the organization to have the best people in the organization. I truly think we got three great ones in the head coach and the two coordinators.”

Dyce and Jones both mentioned that they’d love to see a day when a Black coach hiring Black coordinators isn’t story-worthy and is just the norm. How do we get there? Dyce had two thoughts on it.

“As things continue to progress, I think you’re going to see more of this happening,” he said.

“When you look at the players now who are stepping up and going into coaching, I think in the past it probably wasn’t as easy for them. The opportunities weren’t there. I think as these opportunities grow in the league and there’s more success in these types of situations, I think you’re going to see it happen more often.

“Things are opening up. When I think of this league per se, for myself, a guy like Orlondo Steinauer being the president of football operations in Hamilton, working with people like Ed Hervey in that environment, I think you’re going to continue to see people grow in these roles and be successful.  Orlondo has been very successful in his time in the CFL. We plan to be very successful here and so opportunities are gonna grow going forward.” 

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