The Edmonton Eskimos are in the market for a new head coach.
Eskimos general manager Eric Tillman has decided to fire head coach Richie Hall, a source told The Canadian Press on Thursday. A formal announcement will be made at a news conference Friday.
Hall, 50, spent two seasons as the Eskimos head coach, compiling a 16-20 record. Under Hall, Edmonton was 9-9 in 2009 to finish third in the West Division standings but the club was 7-11 this season and missed the playoffs.
But Edmonton made it interesting. After dropping nine of their first 11 games, the Eskimos won five of six to put themselves in a position to qualify for the playoffs. But the club lost its regular-season finale 31-23 to the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday to finish two points behind B.C. (8-10) for the third and final West Division playoff spot.
Had Edmonton beat Saskatchewan, it would have finished ahead of the Lions by virtue of having won the season series between the two clubs.
Even if Edmonton had reached the playoffs, many around the CFL believed only a Grey Cup win would have saved Hall’s job.
Kavis Reed, who served as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ defensive co-ordinator, has been mentioned as a candidate to replace Hall in Edmonton.
Hall was named the Eskimos head coach Dec. 17, 2008 after a 15-year coaching stint with the Roughriders, the last eight as the club’s defensive co-ordinator. Hall replaced Danny Maciocia, who stepped away from the sidelines at last season’s end to move into the front office full-time as Edmonton’s general manager. He was fired early this season.
Last season, the Calgary Stampeders eliminated the Eskimos from the playoffs with a 24-21 victory in the conference semifinal.
The Eskimos struggled right from the start this season, going 0-4 before downing the B.C. Lions 28-25 on July 30 shortly after team president Rick LeLacheur declared the club had better start winning or heads would roll.
However, the day after the win, the Eskimos announced that Maciocia had been fired. The team would eventually replace him with Tillman in September.
After a 29-28 loss to the Toronto Argonauts the week after Maciocia’s firing, Edmonton was embarrassed with 56-15 loss to Calgary on Aug. 15.
To make matters worse, Hall of Famer Dan Kepley resigned as the club’s linebacker coach after Edmonton had lost six of its first seven games. Kepley was in his 10th season as an assistant, the last four as linebackers coach.
Kepley was an integral member of the Eskimos squad that captured five straight Grey Cup titles (1978-’82) and was a three-time winner of the CFL’s top defensive player award. He had also been named to Edmonton’s Wall of Fame at Commonwealth Stadium.
Offensive line coach Jeff Bleamer was fired with Mark Nelson and Tim Prinsen joining Hall’s staff to replace Kepley and Bleamer, respectively.
The Eskimos’ situation didn’t get any better on Labour Day when the Stampeders earned a lopsided 52-5 home victory over their provincial rivals.
Complicating things for Hall was his taking over of the Eskimos defence in 2010. The move appeared to be a sound one considering Hall helped Saskatchewan capture the 2007 Grey Cup and the following year ran a defence that was first in fewest yards allowed (354 per game), second in pass defence (266 yards per game) and fewest passing TDs allowed (28) and third in fewest TDs (44) and points allowed (25.1 per game).
But even with Hall’s guidance, Edmonton finished last in yards allowed (388.2 per game), points allowed (30.3 per game) and fewest sacks (31).
A former CFL player, Hall is respected throughout the league for being a classy gentleman off the field and a bright defensive mind on it.
Hall had interviewed for a number of head-coaching vacancies in the CFL — no fewer than seven over a four-year span — but had always been bypassed until the Eskimos hired him.
Hall, a native of San Antonio, Tex., played nine seasons in the CFL as a defensive back with Calgary and Saskatchewan (1983-91). He helped the Riders win the Grey Cup in 1989.
The Colorado State University product appeared in 153 career regular-season games and was a four-time West Division all-star.