As each CFL team's season comes to an end, we're going to look back on the highs, lows and issues they faced this year. Rather than doing so with Dear John letters or eulogies from their opponents, we're going to borrow an old writer's trick and anthropomorphize each team's season with a newspaper-style obituary. Next up: your 2010 Edmonton Eskimos.
After many months of illness, the Edmonton Eskimos' 2010 season was officially pronounced dead Saturday night. The cause of death was officially listed as "Saskatchewan", with a 31-23 loss to the Roughriders officially dooming the Eskimos.
However, Edmonton's season had been on life support for some time with the worst prognosis of any CFL franchise and had hit perhaps the lowest point in their franchise history with a 52-5 loss to Calgary. A midseason general manager transplant that saw Eric Tillman (pictured above at his introductory press conference) come in and make plenty of player personnel moves provided a chance for the team to rebound, but in the end, the early damage to their season was too great to overcome.
The Eskimos' season was also hurt by B.C.'s late recovery, which tied up space and resources in the CFL's Playoff Hopefuls ward. The Lions' victory over Hamilton Saturday afternoon increased the hurdles Edmonton had to clear and made it so they needed a win in arguably the league's toughest road environment in Regina Saturday night. That would have been a considerable challenge for any CFL franchise, but for one that had been on life support for so much of the season, it simply proved too much.
Edmonton fought to the end, though, and they nearly managed to keep their season alive. Ricky Ray (pictured at right being helped up by guard Patrick Kabongo after taking a big hit Saturday) returned from injury and completed 21 of 33 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown. He also scrambled five times for 37 yards and a touchdown, but his two fumbles proved damaging to the Eskimos' cause. Running back Daniel Porter continued his strong performance, rushing 19 times for 153 yards, and Edmonton's Most Outstanding Player candidate Fred Stamps showed why he earned that distinction, making nine catches for 118 yards and a touchdown. The Eskimos' pass defence proved their downfall Saturday, however. They allowed Darian Durant to throw for 345 yards and a touchdown, and just weren't able to contain Saskatchewan's receivers.
Poor defence was an overall theme of Edmonton's season, as they allowed 545 points on the year; no other team even conceded 500. They didn't receive the most consistent offensive play either, and only put up 382 points this season, second-worst in the league behind the Toronto Argonauts. Their performances down the stretch were much better, as they had won three straight games heading into Saturday's clash and had put up 86 points while only conceding 65 in those clashes. In the end, though, the drastic general manager transplant and significant personnel changes only proved enough to extend Edmonton's playoff chances, not save them.
The highest point of Edmonton's season was likely their crucial victory over B.C. at Empire Field a few weeks back. It gave them the tiebreaker edge over B.C. and seemed likely to give them a playoff spot, even though things didn't quite play out that way. The low point of their season was certainly that 52-5 loss to Calgary, which sparked emergency parking-lot meetings and eventually led tothe team bringing in Tillman. It produced some positive changes, but it's not going to be forgotten any time soon either.
The 2010 Eskimos' season will certainly be survived by Tillman, but head coach Richie Hall remains in dire condition despite the team's strong finish, and the future status of quarterbacks Ray and Jason Maas is also questionable. Still, the future looks much better for the survivors of the Eskimos' 2010 season than it did just a month or so ago. There's a lot of talent in Edmonton at the moment, even if it wasn't enough to save this season.
Feel free to leave your memories of and tributes to the 2010 Edmonton Eskimos in the comments below.