“The Board of Governors of the Canadian Football League and Commissioner Jeffrey L. Orridge have agreed to part ways…”
That’s how the release from the CFL began this morning. It’s not hard to read it as “Orridge allowed to jump before he got pushed.’
All I’ve been reading this morning from league pundits is that Orridge ‘didn’t get it’ in his two years on the job. I disagree.
There’s no argument that Orridge was playing from behind from the get-go, replacing the hugely successful and much-loved Mark Cohon, credited with steering the CFL back to relevance with a new TV deal, salary cap, and new stadiums. Orridge didn’t help himself by being largely invisible his first year on the job, and vague when he did come out to comment. Then there was the fiasco of scrapping the drug testing policy with no replacement, leading to a free for all when players could put go knows what into their bodies.
But from there, it got much, much better. Orridge righted the wrong of the drug policy mess with a much tougher new policy. He launched forays into new media in an attempt to grow a younger fanbase. He pushed for policy on violence against women, he made the league a front-runner on the You Can Play initiative. He oversaw experimentation with new rules and the expanded use of video review, some of which the NFL is scrambling to copy. And he knocked out the home run that was CFL week.
Are there still issues? Of course. Toronto’s a mess. Vancouver’s in need of new ownership and a fan re-connect. Orridge will have to wear his comments suggesting there’s no link between football and CTE, although I question how much of that was him speaking, and how much was his bosses speaking through him fearful of lawsuits.
Orridge inherited a league in great shape, and I say, left it in better shape. That’s one piece of good news for his potential replacement. The other? No ghost of Mark Cohon to compete with.