Edmonton's 52-5 loss to Calgary yesterday has launched a tidal wave of vitriolic reaction. Terry Jones of The Edmonton Sun started his column today with a particularly tough question, "In the entire history of the Edmonton Eskimos has there ever been a lower moment?" They've had some rough times, notably in the 1960s, but it says a lot that Jones' question can't just be ruled out as hyperbole; this legitimately could be one of the worst football moments in the history of the "City of Champions".
You know yesterday's loss was particularly bad when columnists are comparing the team to doomed baby seals and writing "Only sadists and sickos could've derived any pleasure out of that." Even the game stories are comparing yesterday's clash to the new ultra-gory Machete movie, which probably isn't a positive reference.
Problems have plagued this team all season, and ever since their last Grey Cup in 2005. The Eskimos have struggled to find talent and struggled to get the most out of the talent they have. The former fault was punished with the firing of general manager Danny Maciocia earlier this year (which, oddly enough, came after the team's first win); the key question around the team at the moment is if the latter fault will lead to changes in the coaching staff, including perhaps the departure of head coach Richie Hall (pictured above).
Media furor is one thing, but outrage within an organization is something quite different. John Mackinnon of The Edmonton Journal has a detailed report of the post-game activities of general manager tandem Ed Hervey and Dan McKinnon in his piece, and it's one that shows the anger is within as well as without the team:
After Hall turned the locker-room walls purple, a grim-faced Hervey and McKinnon marched out of the room, down the hall and out of the building with Eskimos president and CEO Rick LeLacheur, who convened an ad hoc emergency meeting in the McMahon Stadium parking lot.
None of the three were available to speak to the media following the game.
Emergency parking-lot meetings between top club officials suggest there is some real desperation in the green-and-gold ranks these days. Some of that appears to be leaking out. Hervey, McKinnon and LeLacheur may not have been speaking to the media following yesterday's game, but there wasn't a shortage of people within the organization ready to blast their performance. Quarterback Ricky Ray, who Mackinnon reports was sent back in after suffering a stinger (or nerve injury) in his left shoulder, had plenty of vitriol for his team as well:
"‘It's frustrating. It's embarrassing. It's like we've never played football before,' said Ray, who rarely says anything negative about the team in public. ‘We're not even doing the basic things right. We can't hit an open receiver. We can't make catches. We can't block. We can't run. Those are basic football things and it's everybody. ... Until we can do that, we're not going to win any games.'"
The mess that is today's Edmonton Eskimos can't be entirely laid at the feet of Hall. Very few coaches can make something out of nothing, and the roster Hall was given at the start of this year is far closer to nothing than something. He also has shown some positive results at times, including the 17-point unanswered run Edmonton went on last weekto knock off the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Despite that, though, this loss doesn't say anything good about Hall. Coaches not only have to evaluate the personnel they have and develop schemes to maximize their talents; they also have to inspire their players to perform to the best of their abilities. The opposite was seen on Labour Day's evening, with most of the Eskimos looking like they'd gone home for the holiday shortly after the opening kickoff. There were questionable decisions made throughout the game, particularly the move to bring an injured Ray out again to start the second half, but what bodes worse for Hall than any decision he made is that his players seemed to have no interest in defending his job with their on-field actions.
LeLacheur, Hervey and McKinnon will have to make a decision soon on Hall's future, if they didn't already arrive at one in their impromptu parking lot meeting last night. They'll have to weigh high points such as last week's astonishing victory against the rock-bottom depths Edmonton sunk to Monday. The high points might suggest that Hall can accomplish things even with a lacklustre collection of talent, but yesterday's game may signify that even that limited talent isn't particularly interested in playing for him. It's up to them to decide which result is more indicative of what Hall can do.
Regardless of if a coaching change is made, this season may already be a lost cause for Edmonton. Vicki Hall of The Calgary Herald asks "Does anyone who can pass a drug test believe the Green and Gold can win another game this season?" If they play the way they did Monday night, the answer to that will be a flat no.
This team needs to do something to start a turnaround, and a coaching change might just be the ticket. If a change is made, though, it needs to be made for the right reasons. It needs to be made if management believes Hall has lost the team, and if they believe they have a better candidate to turn things around. It doesn't need to be made to find a scapegoat for this latest humiliation.