Times are hot for Maciocia

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:39 PM ET

Danny Maciocia knew there would be heat.

But he had no idea his rookie season as a head coach would get this hot, this early.

Then again, he had no idea that just 11 weeks into the job his Edmonton Eskimos would be this troubled - two wins in their last five games, 13 points in the last six quarters, first place already out of reach and an offence that seems to be getting worse, not better, as the season progresses.

There's a QB controversy brewing, a kicking controversy on the go, a revolving door of running backs who never get to run the ball and almost all of the questions in his daily media conferences begin with the same three words: "What's wrong with ...''

Other than that, his first year is going pretty well.

"I knew this was going to happen during the course of the season,'' said Maciocia, referring to the criticism, not the woeful offence. "You just don't know if it's going to happen early, in the middle or at the end.''

WINNING UGLY

So far the embattled skip is two-for-two. He took a little heat at the start, when the Eskimos were winning ugly, but dismissed it as nitpicking. Now, in mid-season, with the concerns festering into problems and the Esks starting to lose ugly, Maciocia's feet are inching closer and closer to the flames.

He swore he'd take the good with the bad when he signed on to replace Tom Higgins, but was hoping for a more level split.

"I don't know if there's been any good since I've been head coach,'' he smiled. "But when I took this job I understood exactly what came with it. I saw what coach Higgins went through when we were 0-3 at the start of the season.

"In a coaching career, whether you're going to do this another 15 or 20 years or whether your name is Don Matthews or Wally Buono, they've all been through this.

"It's really something unique to go through. Every coach at some point in time, especially assistants that aspire to be head coaches, should go through these types of situations because one thing is for sure, if it doesn't kill you it makes you stronger.''

Maciocia, a genuine and likable guy, isn't dead yet, but he hasn't made his life any easier through the first 11 games. His lack of commitment to the running game has all but shut down his own offence. Receivers can't get open because teams overplay the pass and Ricky Ray, a sitting duck, is getting slaughtered back there.

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM

And going against 80 years of conventional CFL wisdom by blowing an import spot on a kicker, when the Esks have an All-Canadian on the sidelines, is just asking for trouble - especially when the offensive line needs all the help it can get. If there's room for an American in a Canadian spot, many are wondering why they don't get a hog to protect Ray and open up the ground attack.

"I don't second-guess myself,'' said Maciocia. "For the most part we know what we're doing here. The second guessers are others, but that comes with the territory. We lost three of the last five, but we're 7-4, so it all depends what kind of spin you put on it.''

There is no spin. And the second-guessing has very little to do with so-called extraordinary expectations in Edmonton. It's not extraordinary to expect more than two wins in five mid-season games and it's not extraordinary to expect more than one touchdown, a circus catch at that, in six quarters against Calgary.

Fans in Edmonton aren't unreasonable, but they aren't dumb, either. Maciocia and the Esks bought some time when Oilers training camp diverted everyone's attention, but if things look as grim in Saskatchewan as they did last weekend against Calgary, it'll be a short hop from the frying pan to the fire.

If they don't have access to asbestos cleats, now would be a good time for the Eskimos, and their coach, to end their slumps.


Videos

Photos