Ottawa Rough Riders

Dexter Manley - Defensive End - 1993 - Oklahoma State

By-CFL-H

Over the past 20 years in the Canadian Football League there have been evident patterns. The Western division cultivates and develops stars that in some cases move on to have success in the National Football League. Players such as Jeff Garcia, Warren Moon and Mike Sellers began their careers in relative anonymity in Western Canada before moving on to the bright lights of the National Football League. While there have been some exceptions in the Eastern division such as Terry Greer and Maclin Cody generally it is in the East that the over-the-hill gang of NFLers arrive with much sizzle and in nearly all cases ultimate fizzle. The driving force behind this is the perception of Canadian Football in the markets of Toronto, Hamilton, Montreal and Ottawa compared to the Western markets. Team owners in the East have repeatedly been guilty of going for the “big name” before considering the current talent level or ability of the player. The most blatant example of this in the past 20 years is that of Dexter Manley and the 1993 Ottawa Rough Riders.

 

Manley brought with him impressive statistics clouded by a lifetime ban from the NFL for substance abuse. Over 11 seasons in the NFL with Washington, Phoenix and Tampa Bay he compiled 97.5 sacks and 2 Super Bowl rings. Manley suffered from a serious addiction to cocaine and was suspended by the NFL for life in 1991. What would possess a CFL team to approach this type of player you ask.

 

Bernie Glieberman had purchased the Ottawa Rough Riders from the league in 1992 for $1, assuming $1 million dollars of outstanding debt. Glieberman installed his son Lonie as the club president and the face of the team. 1992 was a success by Ottawa football standards considering the lack of success for the club since the 1981 Grey Cup. The team went 9-9 and made the playoffs. Damon Allen was an effective quarterback and the leader of the team. The momentum of 1992 was dismantled in a series of moves prior to 1993. Allen was disappointed with salary negotiations and moved on to Hamilton. Lonie sought to make a splash and invigorate the Rough Rider faithful - for that he turned to Manley.

 

Out of football in 1992 Manley arrived at camp in ’93 out of shape with deteriorating skill. It also became clear to those around Manley that he had not overcome the demons of drug addiction.  The Defensive lineman was not in any shape to help the team win football games – an opinion that Glieberman would not stand for. Glieberman had made Manley his centerpiece and prized acquisition and needed his project on the field. Under pressure to play an arrogant Defensive End with poor work ethic, and obvious personal problems coaches Mike Roach and Jim Daley resigned from the organization.

 

The Glieberman circus was in full swing. Manley only played in 3 games which includes 1 playoff game, he registered 1 fumble recovery and 1 tackle. The club finished a dismal 4-14. The team was not united and not productive. Manley was a disaster on the field and with coaching decisions being dictated by a team president in his late 20’s the paying public could not be expected to support such a disaster. Average attendance for the clubs 9 home games was 22,026 for 1993.

 

All of the promise built from 1992 was gone – what could have been was now gone because of the allure of a has-been who no longer was. The idea that Manley could not only bring national attention to Ottawa but make the team stronger was too much for Glieberman to pass up and ultimately admit to himself and his team.  The result of that decision left Glieberman running for Shreveport with Manley in tow – leaving behind a scarred franchise that would shut down for good just 2 year later.