September 5, 2008
'The right decision'
At the halfway mark of the CFL season, Rick LeLacheur looks like one of the smartest executives in the league.
Against the desire of countless vocal fans in the off-season, the Edmonton Eskimos president and CEO retained Danny Maciocia as head coach and director of football operations.
With the club sitting at 6-3 and in second place in the West Division entering tonight's game at Commonwealth Stadium against the Calgary Stampeders (7 p.m., CHED), LeLacheur's move looks pretty good at the moment.
But don't expect any 'I told you so' comments from the chief of the football empire.
Instead, he's praising his coach and keeping a level head at the same time.
"At the time (I made the choice to keep him) I felt it was the right decision and I still do," said LeLacheur.
"That is what you get paid the bucks for, is to make the decisions. And hopefully you are right more than you are wrong.
"(But) we still have got half a season of football to play."
After missing the playoffs for two straight years, the Eskimos know what can go wrong in a hurry.
However, the first-half record is impressive, especially considering 30 of the 58 players currently in camp were not with the Eskimos last year.
"We are very happy with the first half," said LeLacheur. "It is arguable we could have won two of those games that we lost.
"I think the key right now is the team continues to improve on a weekly basis.
"That is what we are looking for."
Edmonton has won two straight, both lopsided wins against Saskatchewan and Calgary.
The club has won four of its last five games and would have its first three-game winning streak in three years with a victory tonight.
"(Maciocia) has worked tremendously hard," continued LeLacheur.
"I had to beg him to take a few days off at Christmas-time.
"We have had a good year recruiting. I think Paul Jones (chief scout) has worked tremendously hard. We had a great draft. We have four players on the roster from the draft."
Linebacker Tim St. Pierre and defensive end Justin Cooper are on the active roster, both making contributions on special teams.
Receiver Dante Luciani and safety Sammy Okpro are practising with the club.
In comparison, Calvin McCarty and Adam Braidwood are the only draft picks from the 2005, 2006 and 2007 draft class still with the team.
But the real test for Maciocia and this revamped Eskimo club comes in the second half of the season.
Under Maciocia's four-year head-coaching reign, the club hasn't had a home playoff game.
FINISH LINES: LELACHEUR IS PREDICTING THE ESKIMOS WILL ATTRACT A CROWD OF MORE THAN 41,200 TONIGHT.
That number came to light yesterday because he believes the club will have a combined attendance for back-to-back home games (Aug. 21 vs. Saskatchewan and tonight vs. Calgary) of at least 90,000.
The Esks attracted 48,800 to their win against the Riders.