Can you fix it?

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

Can't kick. Can't block. Can't run. Myriad of mistakes. Plethora of penalties.

The mystery isn't what's wrong with the Eskimos, it's why nothing seems to be getting done to make what's wrong right.

If it's not broke, don't fix it. But it's broke ... The same things keep costing them games.

Can't kick? Can't block? Can't run? Myriad of mistakes? Plethora of penalties?

"That's a fair assessment," says head coach Danny Maciocia.

At least the head coach isn't in denial.

But ask him what he's going to do about it, and you don't get the idea he has any answers.

"We're addressing them daily. We think we're making progress. The personnel turnover here has been huge. Usually it's five to six players a year. The only way to fix them is to keep working on it. There's only two ways to fix it, in the film room and on the field."

ROSTER DECISIONS

There's also roster decisions and philosophy decisions to be made.

"The staff is going right back in tonight and we're going to make some decisions on personnel," he said after yesterday's post-game rundown.

There are six regular-season games left. The Eskimos will lose their fifth game in the last seven if they don't end the B.C. Lions' undefeated season Saturday.

There are a lot of things right with this football club. When you lose five games by a total of 19 points, that is self-evident. There's a Grey Cup-calibre defence with a Grey Cup-calibre quarterback and Grey Cup-calibre receivers. Fix even some of what's broken and the season can be salvaged. The cold is coming. Still no running game.

"We need to get a running game going if we're going to be successful," Ricky Ray spit it out in a single sentence yesterday.

Ron McClendon proved himself useful and a short-yardage shovel pass receiver. But his rushing average was 0.8 yards in Regina.

"We're still one-dimensional. We need to keep a defence off-balance," said Ray.

A lot of that is a lack of run blocking.

The answer seems obvious. Ditch the all-Canadian philosophy, and do what over half the other teams in the CFL are now doing. Play an import offensive lineman. If you don't get a guy here soon, you won't be able to use him.

"As of right now we have no plans of bringing in an import offensive lineman," said Maciocia.

The Eskimo penalty totals are obscene. Penalties result from helmets not being screwed on straight and offensive linemen so badly beaten they have to tackle a defender to save the life of the quarterback.

And what do you do about the kicking? It's now caused three losses. There was a 17-point swing on special teams in Taylor Field Sunday.

If Maciocia had taken an extra import to Regina, who knows what difference it would have made with three major injuries suffered early.

Having an import kicker cost him a game in more ways than the three ways Hayden Epstein missed field goals - and Maciocia says the films showed Epstein was late getting the kick away and that's the No. 1 reason his last second field goal was blocked instead of winning the game.

He has no choice now but to go back to Fleming. And I think he will.

"One, the other or both. Ying. Yang. Or Ying and Yang," is what he said to start with, but followed with the thought that Fleming was removed from kicking duties to "let him calm down a bit.

"I believe Sean mentally needed a rest. I said from the start, I need Sean to come to me and tell me he's ready. So far he hasn't told me that."

In our 'What's Wrong With the Eskimos' poll, 34% said coaching, 28% offensive line, 15% kicking game, 13% running backs, 6% quarterbacks and 4% defence.

SPECIAL TEAMS SHOW

Coaching? If the voters are including the seriously second-rate assistant coaching staff, it may not be that far off. For example, how can you watch a special teams show like we watched in Regina Sunday and not wonder what in the world Malvin Hunter is doing as the special teams coach?

I suspect it will be a long way down the road before I write a fire-the-coach column on Maciocia. I think he's going to have a great career here.

But he is getting an education and baptism by fire right now. And right now he sure as heaven can't be accused of fixing what's broke.

"It's all not as easy as snapping your fingers," said the coach.

Well, snap 'em anyway.


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