This season was supposed to be the Edmonton Eskimos’ year.
The year they were to get back to the Eskimos glory years.
As the 2010 Grey Cup hosts, the expectations were sky high for the Eskimos to be on their new artificial field turf representing the West in November at the newly refurbished Commonwealth Stadium.
But this season has been nothing but a nightmare.
They’ve started an ugly 1-6, general manager Danny Maciocia was fired after a 1-4 opening, offensive line coach Jeff Bleamer was fired and legendary Eskimo Danny Kepley resigned from his position as linebacker coach, a post he’s held since 2007, after an embarrassing 56-15 loss to the Stamps in Week 7.
The man they called ‘Mr. Eskimo’ had been part of the Eskimos coaching staff for the past 10 years and has had his name and No. 42 on the Eskimos wall of honour since 1987.
What’s gone wrong? Many things.
Edmonton fans could never get behind Maciocia. Not after he took over coaching duties from Tom Higgins, not after he became GM. His every move was questioned by the fans until the Eskimos pulled the trigger on his job after their only win of the season against the B.C. Lions.
During Macoicia’s tenure he never seemed to do anything right. The Esks never had a strong running game, forcing them to rely too much on the arm of Ricky Ray.
It’s ironic that when Maciocia finally finds a solid running back in Arkee Whitlock to take the Eskimos running game to new heights, their biggest struggles on offence is through the air.
Ray hasn’t had a lot of time to throw the ball down the field and stretch the opposition’s defence in the way he was able to at the start of his CFL career.
That was the way that Ray made a name for himself.
That blame partly rests on the heels of the offensive line. In one season, the Eskimos o-line went from being one of the best to the league’s worst.
But quite frankly, Ray hasn’t looked comfortable behind centre since Maciocia fired offensive co-ordinator Rick Worman after Labour Day last season. Under Kevin Strasser, the Eskimos offence just hasn’t looked the same.
Questionable trades and decisions as general manager ultimately cost Maciocia his job, much to the delight of many Eskimos fans. But it’s safe to say that despite the fans displeasure there were many Eskimos who respected Maciocia.
However, the team has yet to respond to the departure of their former GM. Maybe the problem wasn’t just with Maciocia.
Could it be head coach Richie Hall? Could it be Strasser?
Could it be a combination of both?
Now the question that needs to be asked is should the Eskimos blow everything up, and start all over in the year they were expected to be in the Grey Cup?
I don’t think so.
Firing Richie Hall right now is not the best option.
They’re already being run by a GM committee of head scout Ed Hervey, assistant GM Paul Jones and Canadian scout Dan McKinnon. If Hall leaves, that would guide this already misguided ship into a complete lost cause.
Despite their woeful record, the Eskimos are tied with B.C. at 1-6. In the East, Winnipeg is just 2-6.
That’s what makes the CFL such a crazy league.
Despite the Eskimos’ disastrous season, their playoff hopes are still alive. Post a better record than B.C. and Winnipeg, and the Eskimos are in the playoffs.
They certainly wouldn’t be considered Grey Cup favourites, but just making the playoffs after this horrid start would be a major accomplishment.
The organization and the players owe it to themselves, and more importantly they owe it to the fans.
It may not be the situation the Eskimos organization envisioned they would be in at the start of the season, but it would look a lot prettier than where they see themselves now.
Jason Hills is an Edmonton-based freelance writer whose column appears every second Wednesday in the Advocate