12 mai 2024

Condell’s wealth of experience mapping REDBLACKS’ offensive philosophy

Tommy Condell has been coaching football for a long time, and there aren’t too many things he hasn’t experienced, including living in Ottawa, where he’ll serve as the REDBLACKS’ Offensive Coordinator in 2024.

He’s coached at liberal arts colleges, in the Arena Football League, NCAA football, and of course, in the Canadian Football League, including a stint with the Ottawa Renegades from 2004-2005, where he was the Quarterbacks and Receivers Coach, and the Passing Coordinator.

Since then, there has been plenty of change in Ottawa, specifically with the sport of football. The city saw a franchise fold, and a new one born under Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group’s lead. It saw a stadium revitalized, and the surrounding area go from a parking lot to an entertainment district. Those changes are visible, but it’s the one behind the scenes that leaves Condell seeing the biggest difference.

“The expectations match the resources, this organization wants to win championships,” Condell said. “That’s the biggest difference to me.”

For the past number of years, Condell has called Hamilton home, helping the Tiger-Cats to the postseason repeatedly, and to the Grey Cup game on a pair of occasions, until they parted ways midway through the 2023 season.

“Hamilton was a great experience. The only regret that I have is that we didn’t win a Grey Cup,” Condell admitted. “We had a tremendous amount of success, so it was great.”

With the experience and success at the professional football level, it was a matter of when, not if, Condell got his next job. Despite having never worked with him before, Head Coach Bob Dyce saw the opportunity as worthy of investigating. Before long, they met and hashed things out for hours, getting to know one another, both personally, and professionally.

“We were there in that meeting room for seven hours, and we didn’t eat,” Condell said. “We talked all the way through these things, and that was very important to me to be able to say ‘yes’ [to this opportunity].”

Philosophically, Condell and Dyce aren’t all that different. At their core, their principles are shared, although the method of delivery might be a touch different.

“One of the big pillars is championship communication,” Condell said. “It’s not just giving information, it entails listening to learn. You learn the players, you understand what they comprehend, and what they like the best. Where there’s a high level of communication, there’s a high level of execution.”

Communication wraps many different concepts into one for Condell. It’s the daily message for his players, making expectations clear, the language of the playbook, all the way down to the execution of the play call from the time it leaves his lips, until the huddle is broken and the play is run.

Branching off championship communication, Condell uses the phrase “saw wood,” which reminds everyone in the organization of the little things that help complete a goal or task. Perfectly fitting considering the REDBLACKS’ lumberjack theme, the phrase details that each stroke of the saw is deliberate, edging the final goal ever closer, even if it takes hours, days, or months to complete.

“We have to saw wood every single day,” Condell said. “We have to be committed to being present every single day.”

His other saying, which he picked up later in his coaching career, and is CFL-specific, has a slight twist from the cliché.

“Marc Trestman used to say ‘57 plus three,’ and I use it all the time,” Condell shared. “Over half of the games in the CFL are decided in the last three minutes, so being able to have a resilient attitude and realize the game is never out of reach is important.”

Since arriving in Ottawa, Condell has made a point to talk to every player in the building, and has noted an unsatiated hunger, and desire to reach heights not seen in Ottawa for a handful of years.

It’s a welcome sign, especially with Condell’s belief that players are the ones making the difference on the weekend.

“The players are the ones who make things go,” he said. “We’re going to have enough science and scheme to allow us to compete in every game, but we’re going to win because of the players that are here. It’s my job to put them in positions to be successful.”

The page has been turned, and Condell isn’t worried about what happened with the Tiger-Cats in the past, or the past couple of seasons in Ottawa. His only worry now is what he can do today that will change the outcome in June, and help the REDBLACKS lift the Grey Cup in November.

“There’s a reason why the windshield is so big, and the rearview mirror is so small,” Condell said. “You have to be in the moment. We can affect what will happen in the future, and it’s a coach’s responsibility to prepare their players for that.”