Maciocia firing sure to please fans

Edmonton Eskimos GM Danny Maciocia was fired yesterday. (JASON FRANSON/QMI Agency Files)

Edmonton Eskimos GM Danny Maciocia was fired yesterday. (JASON FRANSON/QMI Agency Files)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:56 PM ET

Few firings in the entire history of the Edmonton Eskimos will be as popular with the fans as this one.

Danny Maciocia has been gonged. To many inside the team he's been wronged.

But the fans have won.

The man they loved to hate has been given the gate.

Maciocia somehow went from being the exceedingly popular rookie coach with the great never-played-football, won-the-Grey-Cup-as-a-rookie-head-coach story into becoming one of the most loathed, detested, despised individuals in Edmonton sports history.

It wasn't fair in many ways. But there was no questioning that it was there. Danny Maciocia became bad for business. The polls proved it. Fans didn't want the coach fired or the CEO fired, more that 80% of them wanted Maciocia canned. The GM had become absolutely radioactive to the community.

President and CEO Rick LeLacheur spared head coach Richie Hall -- "the coaching we'll take a week at a time" -- after the Eskimos 28-25 win over the B.C. Lions.

But Maciocia was a dead GM walking ever since LeLacheur made the recommendation to the Eskimos board of directors Wednesday.

LeLacheur admitted there comes a time when you have to listen to your customers.

"It played into it," said LeLacheur of the fan base.

"We know Danny has been tagged. I don't know why. They blame him for everything, maybe even blame him for the storm," he said of the Friday night lightning and rain which forced a 36-minute delay in the game and knocked power out in Commonwealth Stadium before the Eskimos won their first game of the season.

"It has affected business. No doubt about it."

There was an perceived arrogance and constant expression of his own genius which continued to backfire with free agent flops and failure at the Canadian draft.

But more than anything, the community turned on him the day the Eskimos missed the playoffs for the first time in 34 years. After that day it seemed everything he did or everything he said rubbed people the wrong way.

When you sell out the Grey Cup before you play your first pre-season game but can't top your crowd count of that pre-season game (33,708) with your first three regular-season crowds (32,439, 30,442 and 32,281) in a town where 40,000 is the norm, there's a message being sent.

LeLacheur said he came to the decision that at the end of this year it would not be in the best interests to retain Maciocia and that he would not offer Maciocia an extention of his contract.

The board backed him at their Wednesday meeting.

"The board hires the CEO and Rick has been thinking for some time that it wasn't in the long-term best interests going forward here to retain Danny in any capacity. And if there was no role for Danny to play going forward, it was not only in our best interests going forward, it was also in Danny's best interests going forward to make the move now," said chairman Doug Goss.

LeLacheur said Maciocia took it "like a pro -- he accepted it. It's time to move on."

Maciocia, who had his father in town for the game, asked for a day to deal with it on a personal level.

He's expected to meet with the media Sunday afternoon.

"There were a number of shocked people today, no doubt about it," said LeLacheur of the coaching staff and players.

Certainly one of those was head coach Hall himself who took it hard and said it should have been him.

When the Eskimos called the press conference Saturday morning, you knew it was not going to be to fire Hall. The way the team came to play for him -- the way they acted in the post-game dressing room toward him it was pretty evident they love their coach.

"Richie just needs to tell me anything he needs personnel-wise and we will find it," said LeLacheur of the day-to-day while Hall and his staff proceed week-to-week.

While there is no time frame involved, the search for the new GM starts now.

"We will now begin a North American search for a top-notch football manager. I'm going to find the best football person we possibly can," said LeLacheur.

In the interim there is no interim GM.

Or maybe there are four.

LeLacheur said the decisions will be made by Ed Hervey, Paul Jones and Dan McKinnon through himself.

All three are currently out to scout NFL training camps.

And no, Eric Tillman is not going to get the job. Let's get that straight right now.

Not going to happen. Not with a community-owned team.

Not after he couldn't be kept in Saskatchewan because of the nature of the conviction against him. The Eskimos need to win back fans with the departure of this general manager, not alienate more of them with the hiring of the next.

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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