You won't see Hughie jerkin' his knee

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:03 AM ET

Hugh Campbell is on the hot seat. And he knows it. The CEO didn't fire Tom Higgins yesterday. Didn't give him a vote of confidence, either.

"By nature and experience, I'll let some dust settle," he said. "I'm not going to have a knee-jerk reaction. The bottom line is I'm going to do what's best for the Eskimos in the end.

"I'm going to do what I think will give us the best chance to be the most successful on the field and the best chance to be successful in the stands with happy fans who want to come to our games because they have pride in the team. That's how Tom was forced into the job in the first place," he said of the pre-season dismissal of Don Matthews four years ago.

Read between the lines and Campbell, I believe, is telegraphing that he knows he has to do something after a 9-9 season and a loss at home in the Western semifinal.

"I haven't brought the head coach in here," Campbell said as we sat in his office yesterday morning.

"I haven't had a conversation with him yet. He started interim. I don't know where his head is right now. We're going to have to address it."

One thing Campbell wants to make clear.

"I'm not going to make a decision on one play," he said of the fake punt so perfectly captured by the one word headline in yesterday's Sun - "Tomfoolery!"

Fans have always been lukewarm to Higgins. The fans having had enough of Higgins is one thing. Campbell has to deal with a much larger issue now. Player confidence in the head coach is not significantly different than where it is with the fans.

But there's even more at play here.

"It appears there will be openings around the league coaching wise," Campbell allowed.

In Danny Maciocia and Greg Marshall, the Eskimos have two head coach candidates.

PULLING THE PLUG ON PAOPAO

Ottawa (where they'll pull the plug on Joe Paopao after the Grey Cup), maybe Winnipeg (where Jim Daley is interim) and even possibly Toronto (where Pinball Clemons is believed to be considering stepping into another job with the Argos at the end of the season) might be looking for head coaches.

Campbell isn't that far from being in the same spot he left Norm Kimball sitting when he left his five-in-a-row team and went to the USFL and NFL.

At the time it was obvious Cal Murphy and Don Matthews were head coach candidates.

Kimball was left between a rock and a hard place. By picking one over the other, you could also leave your dressing room divided. He elected to make the dumbest decision of his career when he chose Pete Kettela to take over instead. Kimball had to tie the can to Kettela after Labour Day.

The Eskimos have some interesting free agents, too. If Maciocia and/or Marshall go, players might follow.

"I'll do what is best for the Eskimos," said Campbell.

"The buck stops here. The gift I have given the Eskimos, if that's the right way to put it, is to put the football team first, ahead of my family and friends.

"I don't underestimate what I have to do with the Eskimos in terms of continuity, attendance, pride in community, talent on the field ..."

CONTINUITY'S A BIG THING

Continuity is a big thing to Campbell.

"By having continuity from Norm Kimball to me to whoever the next guy is - and making it work - has resulted in this franchise never being in financial ruin or changing owners.

"I won't make change for the sake of change. I'm not disappointed in the majority of the players we have here, and I'm not disappointed in anybody's effort. We have very good talent. We're not going to have to start over. We're not looking at an overhaul. We're looking at a tune-up."

That said, change is coming.

You have to think the outstanding careers of Mike Pringle and Chris Morris ended here.

You have to believe that somebody like Darrell Mitchell might not be back.

Terry Vaughn proved in a playoff game he can still get it done. But will the Eskimos want to keep paying him his sizeable salary for what he's likely to give them in the fading years of his career when Ed Hervey is going to need a big raise to stay?

Some change happened during this season. Plenty more is waiting in the wings and that's going nowhere near Ricky Ray and the possibility of him being back next year.

"We have at least four players here who never got to play - we only saw them in practice," said Campbell of players Paul Jones sent from NFL camps.

No running game when the frost was on the pumpkin makes that a priority.

The offensive line needs a free agent upgrade to go with plenty of young potential. Overall, a lot of experienced players got old this year.

Hugh Campbell knows he has to tweak this team in several directions to go forward to a successful future. I believe it will be without Tom Higgins as his head coach.


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