Why am I, a fan of the Calgary Stampeders, trying to figure out what the Eskimos need to do to turn their season around? I should just be happy that the Stampeders are dominating the "Battle of Alberta."
I am happy Calgary is winning, but I am embarrassed for the Eskimos. It was embarrassing to watch the Eskimos come out with another horrible effort.
Even though Eskimos fans have been generally the worst fans for throwing anything in your face, I honestly felt for them and wished the game could have been over after it became 40-5.
The Eskimos have played poorly as of late, but there are too many good players to think that this team is as bad as they have shown this year. Ricky Ray is not as bad as his stats have shown this year. Fred Stamps is still one of the best receivers in the league when he's healthy. Kamau Peterson is a clutch receiver who is good for a quick first down.
The defense has shown its solid, with a lot of key players like Dario Romero, Mo Lloyd, Kai Ellis, T.J. Hill, and Jason Nugent, and Chris Thompson has shown to be a very solid cover guy.
So what's the problem with this team?
What makes me mad about this situation is that a once proud organization is at fault for putting themselves in this situation. Here are the top five reasons the Eskimos have found themselves in this position.
1. Danny Maciocia
Maciocia inherited a very good football team in 2005 that won him a Grey Cup and made him look like he knew what he was doing. This happened to the Riders in the 1990s with Al Ford inheriting an average team that won a Grey Cup. He rode that win through 11 years and finally was let go.
Since 2005 Maciocia has broken apart this once great team and left them in shambles. He shouldn't have been the coach, and he most definitely shouldn't have been in charge of making personnel decisions. The Esks have not had a serious Grey Cup contender since the Grey Cup in 2005. He clearly shouldn't have been the coach, and moving him to the general manager job made things worse.
How many times does someone who is doing a poor job get promoted out of a job? Only in Edmonton. Two perfect examples: Kevin Lowe and Danny Maciocia.
2. Kevin Strasser
The Eskimos were 5-4 when Rick Worman was fired as the offensive coordinator with the Eskimos last season. He was replaced by Kevin Strasser, who like Worman only has five wins, but that is over the second half of last season and the first half of this season. His offense has looked uninspired and has not given his team a chance to compete.
3. Offensive Line
The offensive line has not protected Ricky Ray. He has been rushed and hit way too many times. They seem to have a decent time running the ball with the running backs they have had in the last few years, but when it comes to pass protection, the Esks haven't been able to keep the defenses from hitting Ray time and time again. I've almost begun to think it's expected that every play Ray should get hit.
I know the Toronto Argonauts have benefited from a new offensive coordinator calling better plays, so it may not be just the O-line's fault, but get Kevin Strasser out of there and you may see a positive change in the O-line.
4. Receivers Dropping Passes
It wasn't more evident than this past week, when the Eskimo receivers dropped or didn't hold on to half a dozen passes in the first half. A game that was close for the first 20 minutes could have been close a lot longer and could have kept the defense off the field, keeping them fresher for the later stages in the game.
I do realize the losses of Kamau Peterson and Fred Stamps have been significant, but there has to be someone who'll step up and get the job done.
5. Rick LeLacheur
The team has to play the game, but if they don't win, changes have to be made. In the last five years, changes have been made in an attempt to inspire their team to play better. The changes have been made at the wrong times, and none of the changes seem to work long-term.
I know LeLacheur hasn't been the one making the changes, but he's the one that has to keep the rest of the team accountable. LeLacheur has been the President and CEO since December 2006. While you want to stay out of the spotlight and let the team run themselves, there comes a point where the leaders need to step in and intervene.
While I credit him for giving the ultimatum earlier this season to win or people would lose their jobs, the Eskimos won and they still fired Danny Maciocia. Maciocia should have been fired, but pulling the trigger after the win was the wrong message to send. Plus, letting go of your GM is possibly the worst change to make if you want to motivate the team. You might as well have fired the video coordinator.
Most of all, it was completely irresponsible of him to not have someone waiting in the wings before making that move. Most teams made moves in the bye week to bolster their lineups, and the Eskimos brought in a new O-line coach. That was needed, but they needed someone down south ready to bring in new talent.
Ed Hervey is the head scout, and I'm sure he's the reason they brought in receiver Marko Mitchell, a recent cut from the Minnesota Vikings.
Reactions have come too slow and now have cost the team serious position and prep time needed to bring people into this situation. The team is making small changes now when big changes are needed for them to even compete.
The Eskimos are at the bottom of the CFL West, and without some success, and soon, Edmonton could see itself looking from the outside again come playoff time.
The good thing Eskimos fans can take from this is the fact they are tied with the Lions, and a string of wins at the end of the season could help them take over and hold on to sole possession of the third spot in the CFL West. They do have to watch how Winnipeg does and hope they don't start winning too.
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