Plotting the Esks’ course

Dan McKinnon, left, the Eskimos manager of football administration, and head scout Ed Hervey take...

Dan McKinnon, left, the Eskimos manager of football administration, and head scout Ed Hervey take in practices from the empty stands as they plan for the remainder of the season.

TERRY JONES, Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:12 PM ET

They sit beside each other, the only two people in a sea of seats.

Ever since the day Danny Maciocia was fired they’ve chosen to sit there, halfway down from the press box in the middle of the section, operating together as point men on the general-manager-by-committee concept the Edmonton Eskimos employ.

So what’s it been like for Dan McKinnon and Ed Hervey, trying to right a sinking ship and at the same time point it in the right direction for whoever it will be who comes in and “replaces” them as general manager?

And what’s it going to be like in the coming days as the NFL final cuts are made and they make more moves that they’ve decided must be made?

Three weeks ago in Calgary there was no need to ask the first question. The two stood in the corridor outside the Eskimos dressing room at McMahon Stadium after the 56-15 loss to the Stampeders and looked players in the eye as they came up the hall and entered the room. McKinnon was absolutely stone faced.

Hervey was so angry he eventually had to walk away to avoid losing it completely and cause a scene he might live to regret, like the one he made in the same stadium during his playing days, swinging a helmet.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been that mad in my post-playing career,” is how Hervey put it.

“There’s nothing to me worse than watching a team lose when there isn’t the effort. We weren’t playing with effort.

“We spent a lot of nights in the office,” he said of making the player and coaching moves they’ve made to this point.

It was Hervey who came up with the concept of everybody involved coming off the bye week and looking at it as the start of a completely new season.

“We were burning the midnight oil when Ed said ‘We need to look at this bye break as the off-season and come back and just start a new season.’ That comment become a theme throughout the entire club. We all want to look at each other in the eye at the end of the season and say, ‘We got it done,’ ” said McKinnon.

Hervey has been identified as a future CFL general manager but that future likely isn’t next year. He certainly hasn’t taken the approach that he’s on the job trying to audition for the job.

“It’s an education under fire,” said Hervey, the head scout who schooled teammates for years about becoming Eskimos in important ways beyond pulling on the sweater.

“These duties have been thrust on us. But there hasn’t been an issue that’s taken me by surprise. The only difference is that there is no GM in place.”

It’s less of a transition for McKinnon who, for 25 years in another life, was in senior management with Bell Canada before he pursued his passion for football into a career change which brought him to Edmonton as a receivers coach, directing the likes of Hervey.

McKinnon became manager of football administration and Canadian scouting and added the duties of overseeing the $110 million of stadium improvements, at which he’s done just a brilliant job.

“Fortunately I’ve been in this job since the salary cap came in and I’ve done the day-to-day,” he said of all the contract work, etc.

“I managed it all when Danny was head coach. Danny made the final decisions, but I was managing it all. The excellent thing here is that the thinking patterns of Ed and myself are very similar. We have great respect for each other and that’s grown greater.”

McKinnon was in Washington at the Redskins camp, and Hervey in Edmonton about to return to NFL scouting the next day, when Maciocia was fired. They couldn’t just drop everything.

“We had a conference call every morning and then we’d talk three or four times a day. We didn’t miss anything at the NFL camps,” said Hervey.

By the time the Calgary game came around they were back with their lists, all ready for the NFL final cuts, which happen today, with a 10-day window for affected players to find another NFL team.

“We’re not going to make snap decisions. But our ready board is ready,” said Hervey.

McKinnon has been the rock in terms of emphasizing “meaningful adjustments” and avoiding panic moves.

“We don’t want to make decisions to make decisions.”

But expect moves to be made?

“Yes,” said Hervey.

“At specific positions we need to improve. Whether it’s one, two or three changes, we definitely need to improve. Right now. ASAP!”

Considering Maciocia’s parting words — “We’ve got the talent” — McKinnon’s words today echo around the stadium where they sit.

“We need to improve the talent base and skill level.”

As the two sit there in those seats, they are allowing themselves to think what a story it would be and what a ride it could turn into if they somehow teamed with the team to turn this around and produced a happy ending.

Has it been any fun?

“Not yet,” said McKinnon.

The accent was on “yet.”

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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