Renegades reigned out

Renegades president Brad Watters (left) and CEO John Lisowski have been busy off the field....

Renegades president Brad Watters (left) and CEO John Lisowski have been busy off the field. (Suzanne Bird, Sun Media file photo)

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

The Renegades face a tough enough battle making the CFL playoffs without wasting energy on any more of the internal battles they've waged over the last few weeks. According to a couple of CFL sources, the Renegades have been split into a football operation vs. front office tiff.

First, GM Eric Tillman was relieved of most of his managing duties.

Then there was a confrontation between coach and acting GM Joe Paopao and president Brad Watters over the fate of defensive co-ordinator Gary Etcheverry.

Watters wanted Etcheverry fired, according to a CFL source, and walked into Paopao's office to demand as much in the midst of the losing streak.

Paopao stood by his man.

"I think (Watters) wanted a sacrificial lamb to appease the fans and Etcheverry was an easy target," said the source.

Watters confirmed as much yesterday, though he stopped short of saying he asked for Etcheverry to be fired.

Paopao stood by his defensive co-ordinator, putting his own job on the line. He convinced Watters things would improve and they took a turn for the better with Friday night's win over the Calgary Stampeders.

"My biggest concern the last six weeks was on defence and was the system working?" Watters told the Team 1200 yesterday. "To (Paopao)'s credit, he said, 'I have faith we can turn this around.' My concern was that if the system didn't work, we would have to make a coaching change on the defence."

Watters said Paopao's job was never on the line.

"When I said there could be a coaching change, I never said a head coaching change," Watters said yesterday. "That was the innuendo and it got run into a witch hunt for Joe. He stood by his guy, which is great."

Etcheverry said he had heard "second- and third-hand" about the Watters-Paopao exchange, but said there was only one opinion with which he was concerned.

"To me, it's the people who know the ins and outs on the field. My immediate supervisor is Joe Paopao. If he feels we need to make a change, if it's something we do or how we're doing it, any aspect, I trust we'll have that conversation."

"I think the defence has played pretty well by and large. There were a couple of games, but not very many, where we have not played well."

As you might expect, Paopao declined to comment specifically yesterday on his conversation with Watters.

SEVERAL RUN-INS

According to insiders, vice-president and GM Tillman and CEO John Lisowski have had several run-ins over the way the club should be run. So much of Tillman's power was taken away and Paopao has the last word on personnel and trades.

"Both guys were just trying to do their jobs, but it put them up against each other," said one source familiar with the situation.

The source said Tillman was particularly frustrated with having to explain the need to have three QBs on the roster and to justify the expense of a practice roster, both fundamental parts of doing business in the CFL.

BUDGET TIGHTENED

Tillman had a three-year plan to build the Renegades, but that changed this season with a further tightening of the budget. While other teams load up on talent, the Renegades have been faithful to the economic framework set by ownership and enforced by Lisowski.

Lisowski, responsible for the day-to-day business operations of the football club, was brought in to improve the club's bottom line. There is no questioning Lisowski's credentials as an executive. He was a managing partner at Pricewaterhouse-Coopers for 35 years and has been a consultant to the Senators and the Corel Centre.

Tillman wasn't available for comment last night and an attempt to reach Lisowski was unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, the win over the Stamps has brightened the Renegades' outlook on the rest of the season.

Here's hoping the Renegades' toughest opponents don't turn out to be the Renegades themselves.

NOTING: Renegades kicker Sandro Sciortino missed practice yesterday to have some more tests done on an unspecified medical condition. Paopao said he expects Sciortino, the hero of the win over the Stamps, to be kicking on Sunday against Saskatchewan.

chris.stevenson@ott.sunpub.com 


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