End of Hall's road?


, Last Updated: 7:11 PM ET

Its been six weeks now that one of the nicest people ever placed on this planet has been forced to walk around town as the village wart carrier with a bulls-eye painted on his brow, thanks to a collection of players who wont consistently play hard for him.

Thursday, in perhaps his last time to talk to the team the day before a game, Richie Hall put in what may have been his last request before the Edmonton Eskimos give him the blindfold and the cigarette.

Just do what you were brought here to do, he said.

If you were brought here to be a receiver, then run and catch the football. Do your job. Come to play the game mentally, physically and emotionally.

A couple of hours later with a few moments with Hall privately, your correspondent asked him how hes doing mentally, physically and emotionally.

Im at peace, he said.

Pausing for a moment, he added an admission.

But I am affected by it.

Pausing again, he tried to explain.

I understand life and I understand myself. Im able to sleep. When I come home from work I am able to relax.

I look at life as being about faith, family and friends. It makes dealing with things a lot easier.

When I played with Calgary, the team almost folded. When I played with Saskatchewan the team almost folded. There were crisis times I remember from back then. My philosophy is, if it doesnt kill you, it makes you stronger.

Hall could end up as Hercules if he keeps his job here.

But its fair to ask the question: is this Richie Halls last game as head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos?

If theres another 56-15 or 52-5 result in the offing, doesnt it absolutely have to be?

If the Eskimos somehow (and please dont choke on your bacon and eggs here) manage to win, or even lose while playing hard for 60 minutes, then maybe Hall wont walk the plank this weekend.

If the Eskimos have managed to get 46 heart transplants since Monday, Hall would likely be saved the embarrassment and humiliation of being fired mid-season, even if hes a lame-duck coach not likely to be hired by a new general manager next year.

I really dont think they want to fire him and then hire someone to be fired at the end of the season. But if the Eskimos are going to make a head-coaching change this year, you have to figure it would be done after this game or not be done at all.

With nine days between games here and in Montreal and the start of a two-game road trip which includes the historic Touchdown Atlantic game against the Toronto Argos in Moncton, N.B., this spot in the schedule makes the most sense.

If the Eskimos dont play hard, what happens next?

If that happens then you definitely dont have the right players, said Hall.

Im a simple person. When weve played hard, weve had success. In our last home game against Saskatchewan, we played hard and won. When weve played hard weve given ourselves a chance to win.

When we dont play hard we get games like weve had against Calgary.

If its 50-to-something again, if its a team not playing hard yet again, is there a qualified coach out there willing to sign an eight-game contract with no chance of coaching here next year?

Hugh Campbell isnt going to do it. Theres no Jackie Parker here to take over like he did when the Eskimos fired Pete Ketella after Labour Day in 1983.

Youd probably have to offer big bonus money for getting the team into the playoffs in a year when the Grey Cup is being held in Edmonton.

The only guy who comes to my mind is Dave Ritchie. Hes 70 years old now but if his health can handle eight games, hes the kind of guy who is sitting around doing nothing and would probably be interested in taking on the challenge.

Ritchie is eighth on the all-time CFL list for wins, with 108. He was a head coach in B.C., Montreal and Winnipeg for 11 of his 25 years in Canadian football. And if its Tillman who ends up getting hired here, considering Ritchie coached for him before in B.C., that might end up being an interesting combination to complete a season.

And hes old-school football tough.

Just the mere mention of him as a possibility to take over might inspire this team to play hard for Richie Hall.