Get it over with!

The Eskimos locker room has that loser look with green garbage bags sitting at every stall. The...

The Eskimos locker room has that loser look with green garbage bags sitting at every stall. The players have only next season to think about. (Edmonton Sun/Perry Mah)

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:33 AM ET

Tom Higgins doesn't want a blindfold.

And the health-conscious Edmonton Eskimos head coach can't abide the thought of one last cigarette.

Higgins does, however, have one last request.

If he's going to face the firing squad and take one last bullet for the team, Higgins wants Esks' president and CEO Hugh Campbell to pull the trigger sooner rather than later.

This week, preferably, if that's what's in the cards for him.

"You've got to move forward and if that be the case, absolutely," said Higgins, who has come under heavy media fire for his decision to call a punt fake just before half-time in Sunday's Western Division semifinal loss to Saskatchewan.

"If anybody in management has made up their mind that they choose to go in a different direction, then absolutely."

Three straight first-place finishes in the West, back-to-back trips to the Grey Cup and a Cup championship last season are significant accomplishments. So is a career regular-season record of 44-28-0-1.

But in a city where success is measured in consecutive Grey Cups, a 9-9-0 season coupled with a home-field loss in the first round of the playoff is, well, a firing offence.

Everything is optics.

Higgins suggests his biggest mistake this season was not the call on punt fake.

"My problem this year, and I use the word problem, is the fact that I created an illusion of us being better than what we really were," he said.

"We were missing too many ingredients and we were in the process of having to re-tool our offensive line, readjust with a new quarterback and play with a Canadian fullback."

SNAPPED UP MITCHELL

The Esks snapped up free agent slotback Derrell Mitchell to bolster their already impressive receiving corps before training camp and then spent the rest of the season trying to keep all the playmakers happy.

Edmonton's secondary was a shambles to start the year, but eventually came round.

Despite a wealth of talent and experience, the Esks were never as good as the sum of all their parts.

"There's reasons for the up and down and we ended up being an average football team, and we played an average football game yesterday," Higgins said.

"We had to play a heck of a lot better to move on. And we would have had to play very well to beat the B.C. Lions. Those things are always possible when you're in a playoff position."

Higgins didn't make an impassioned plea for his job as the players gathered to clear out their lockers, many of them for the last time.

The players were not prepared to speculate on Higgins's future.

"I'm not going to comment on that," said quarterback Jason Maas. "I choose not to think about that right now.

"I'm still trying to get over this. Whatever happens in the future, happens."

All-star defensive back Donny Brady shared Maas's penchant for tact.

"This is the City of Champions," said Brady. "We expect to win and we expected to go to the Grey Cup. And I'm a little disappointed.

"(Firing Higgins) is a tough call.

"That's for the head guys to decide.

"My job is just to go out and play and do the best I can."

Assuming Higgins holds the head coaching portfolio beyond this week and hasn't been replaced by either defensive coordinator Greg Marshall or offensive coordinator Danny Maciocia, he envisions change.

RIGHT OF REFUSAL

Still, the 2003 Coach of The Year award winner refuses to describe any moves aimed at getting the aging Esks back to the Grey Cup.

"Rebuilding is a terrible word to use on a professional level," he said. "I know it's semantics but it's true in my mind.

"When you lose, you ponder and you start looking at things a little bit differently than when you win.

"When you win, you can slide a lot of things under the rug and not really pay much attention to it.

"Now, it's wide open. It's out there. I think this is going to be a good thing. I look forward to seeing how it all unfolds."


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