EDMONTON — Edmonton Eskimos head coach Richie Hall was fired Friday, after general manager Eric Tillman said he couldn’t go along with Hall’s wish to stay on as both head coach and defensive co-ordinator.
“There were some significant philosophical differences,” Tillman told a news conference at Commonwealth Stadium.
The head coach position in the Canadian Football League is too demanding to allow for other responsibilities, he said. The coach must juggle the import-non import ratio, put out fires as they flare up at different positions, and keep the big picture in mind in practices and especially during games, he added.
“There are times during a game if you’ve got a young quarterback struggling or there are key decisions to be made in the kicking game, it’s difficult to address those if you’re calling defences,” said Tillman. “The head coach’s role on game day, since there are only 18 games in this sport in the regular season, is fairly significant.”
The move was not a surprise. A CFL source requesting anonymity told The Canadian Press on Thursday that Tillman had decided to let Hall go.
The Eskimos went 7-11 this season and missed the playoffs. Hall had a 16-20 record over two seasons as head coach. He was lured to Edmonton two years ago after serving as the longtime defensive co-ordinator for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Hall said he doesn’t know what his next job will be, but said he wouldn’t rule out returning to the Eskimos as defensive co-ordinator if the new head coach wants him.
“I don’t think you eliminate any situation. You keep everything open,” Hall told. “What’s next for me right now is to literally clean my office out and just to relax, to rest. I’m just mentally and physically tired. Just not to think about football for a period of time — I’m looking forward to it.”
Tillman said the search for a new coach will begin immediately but a replacement won’t be named until sometime after the Grey Cup game on Nov. 28.
He didn’t name any potential candidates but said the new coach must be a master at handling the “chess match” of the import ratio.
He also said the winning candidate will likely have been previously hired by him.
“I think every head coach I’ve hired has had one common denominator and that’s I worked with him,” he said.
“When you’ve worked with someone you have a sense for what they’re like in the best of times and worst of times. And this is a tough business. We’re going to make mistakes. There’s going to be criticism.”
Kavis Reed, who served as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ defensive co-ordinator, has been mentioned as a possible candidate as has Calgary Stampeders assistant Dave Dickenson.
Tillman said the rest of the Eskimos coaching staff remains under contract, but added that whomever is hired as head coach will be free to pick and choose his staff.
“I’m not going to micromanage the head coach,” he said.
The firing ends a roller-coaster season.
The Eskimos dropped nine of their first 11 games this season but then 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 Saskatchewan to finish two points behind B.C. for the third and final West Division playoff spot.
The slow start cost general manager Danny Maciocia his job, clearing the way for Tillman’s hiring in September.
Hall was embraced by fans and players alike for his ready grin and relentless optimism, even as the team slipped into its early season funk.
On offence, only the Toronto Argonauts were worse than Edmonton. The Eskimos averaged just over 21 points a game and scored 31 touchdowns, second worst in both categories.
The defence, however, was worse. Edmonton allowed the most TDs (48), the most yards per game (388.2) and the most points per game (30.3).
The Green and Gold have missed the playoffs for three of the last five seasons, after making the post-season for 34 consecutive campaigns dating back to 1972.