EDMONTON - It may only have been Ed Hervey’s first player acquisition as rookie general manger of the Edmonton Eskimos, but the trade for quarterback Mike Reilly back in January was nothing but a veteran move in Wally Buono’s books.
And if that wasn’t obvious before Matt Nichols was lost for the season to an ACL injury in last week’s preseason-opener, it is now.
“You’ve got to give Ed a lot of credit, I think he did what I probably would have done if I needed a No. 1 quarterback or a guy to come in and compete with who I had,” said Lions GM Wally Buono, who has been managing teams since 1992 and was on the other end of the phone call that sent Reilly to Edmonton on Jan. 31. “I probably would have done what he did, put his neck on the line a little bit and give up something for (Reilly).”
While it cost the Eskimos a second-round pick in the 2014 draft, as well as swapping second-round spots with the Lions and moving from 11th-overall down to 14, it turned into the Eskimos own version of a ‘priceless’ commercial.
Acquiring a QB prospect from the Lions: two draft picks.
The price of a knee injury to Matt Nichols: out for one season.
Having Reilly step in and seamlessly become the No. 1 quarterback ...
Well, you get the point.
“Now, there is a difference between being a No. 1 quarterback and being a winning No. 1 quarterback,” cautioned Buono, who has the most all-time wins as a CFL head coach with 254. “You’ve got to go through (a process) before you can be labelled that.”
Travis Lulay did it after taking over the Lions starting job from Casey Printers in 2010, and going on to lead the charge on the first team to start a season out 0-5 before going on to win the Grey Cup in 2011.
Whatever the progression with Reilly, at least he’s started off on the right foot with how he arrived in Edmonton.
“It shows the player you’re acquiring that you value him. And it shows your own season-ticket holders that you’re not afraid to do and think a little bit outside the box,” Buono said. “Really, when you look at it, that is just a little bit outside the box.”
Instead of aggressively going after Reilly, Hervey could gone the more conventional route of waiting until free agency to bid on him.
“Just think about where the Eskimos would maybe be today if Ed hadn’t done that, right?” Buono said. “I’m saying to people in Edmonton, ‘Hey, that took a lot of guts, but that’s what I think makes people successful, that they’re not afraid to make a decision that might not be popular or might not be understood.”
It was a certainly a bold move for Hervey, who up until that point had been busy with re-signing the likes of kicker Grant Shaw, single-season tackling record holder J.C. Sherritt and all-star slotback Fred Stamps.
But Reilly was the first addition Hervey made to his roster since being promoted from being the team’s head scout in December.
As for dealing with Hervey, GM to GM ...
“It was good that he got what he wanted and I got what I wanted,” Buono said with a grin. “Since then, I think Ed’s gotten tougher on me. I don’t know if he’s learning too quickly for me.
“I think Ed’s a professional and, like all of us, we all go through learning curves and every day you hopefully get a little bit better because you learn a little bit more.”