We weren't cheap: Watters

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:10 AM ET

They were bad. They were injured. They were unfortunate. They were robbed. They were mismanaged.

Brad Watters will say the Ottawa Renegades were all those things this season, but he adamantly insists they were not cheap.

In defence of the cost-cutting measures enforced by new CEO John Lisowski, the exasperated Renegades president/part owner went so far as to call The Team 1200 morning show yesterday to set the record straight against what he deemed myths perpetuated about his club on the air.

Watters later made it clear to the Sun he was unimpressed with Renegades personnel decisions, both in an off-season blockbuster deal with the Calgary Stampeders and the failure to bring in necessary pieces to the puzzle.

You don't have to squint when reading between the lines to see he was none too happy with the job done by Eric Tillman.

"Never was there a time we told anybody they couldn't bring a player in," said Watters. "We needed a left tackle and we brought three (imports) in, then ran two of them out the first day and the third never played a game for us. That ain't being cheap.

"I am amazed at how we get crucified for being cheap. We never told the football side it couldn't bring in players."

Watters said dealing linebacker John Grace and American left tackle Seth Dittman to Calgary was a move that backfired, as both players were missed by Ottawa. Both players bounced back from off seasons to be named West Division all-stars Tuesday.

But Watters defended the decision to back away from negotiations with D.J. Flick, the Renegades leading receiver in 2003 who eventually signed as a free agent with the rival Hamilton Ticats. Flick was named an East Division all-star, as the ex-Renegades to earn such honours outnumbered the current-day Renegades (Josh Ranek) by a 3-1 count.

"We offered Flick a 60% raise," said Watters, who pointed out the Renegades paid a free-agent receiver (Pat Woodcock) considerably more than what they would have had to give Flick. "You can't be accused of cheap when you do that. You can't go higher ... if you do that for one guy, everybody in the locker room wants the same kind of (pay) bump next time they have a good season."

Watters also denied Lisowski was ever involved in football decisions, but did reveal the incident which instigated the fallout Tillman had with the new CEO.

When coach Joe Paopao told Lisowski he needed a new video system that cost $100,000 (a figure Watters used, but later admitted was probably lower), Lisowski told Tillman he would have to hide one less player on the injured reserve list.

Tillman refused to do so, and Lisowski enforced the decision and sided with Paopao, who was shortly thereafter named director of football operations -- or a rung higher than Tillman on the company ladder.

Meanwhile, Watters insists he has not spoken with anybody about replacing Tillman. Bob O'Billovich's name has surfaced as a possibility, but Watters says that's only because he'd be an obvious candidate should the Renegades decide to make such a hire.

"It's the easiest name," said Watters. "If we decide we need a GM, O'Billovich would be on the list (to consider)."

Other names would include Dan Rambo, the former Ottawa Rough Riders GM who now works as a scout for the Denver Broncos, and Marcel Desjardins, the assistant GM of the Montreal Alouettes.

Desjardins, who has learned his craft from one of the best in Jim Popp, has told reporters he feels he's ready to take such a step forward. Rambo, who could not be reached yesterday, is apparently close to securing an NFL pension and therefore unlikely to jump leagues.

While there's still a strong belief (from this corner as well as many others) the Renegades will do the right thing and re-sign Paopao, those who believe a change is in order point to Edmonton Eskimos defence co-ordinator Greg Marshall and Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Jim Daley as possible replacements. Both have years of coaching experience and deep Ottawa roots.

There's word that Daley, who took over the reins when Dave Ritchie was fired early in the season, has been offered a new contract in Winnipeg. And that he has only been given a certain period of time to decide if he wants the job. It's highly doubtful he'd turn down the opportunity in hopes of getting a call from Ottawa, if and when that would happen.

"We still have a lot of decisions to make," said Watters.

And they're not yet ready to make them.


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