Maciocia says it's not him

Edmonton Eskimos head coach Danny Maciocia is up for the 2005 CFL Coach of the Year award....

Edmonton Eskimos head coach Danny Maciocia is up for the 2005 CFL Coach of the Year award. (Edmonton Sun File/Walter Tychnowicz)

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:22 AM ET

The Football Reporters of Canada have delivered a delightful taste of irony.

The 51-member voting panel has chosen Edmonton's Danny Maciocia and Calgary's Tom Higgins as two of the three finalists for the 2005 CFL Coach of the Year award.

"It is a thing of beauty," said Higgins of the irony.

The two coaches have strung together a tale that gets better with each chapter.

After working together for three years in Edmonton, Higgins resigned as head coach under ominous clouds after the 2004 season and resurfaced in Calgary while his disciple took the Eskimos' reins.

Their two teams put on a show in 2005 - and now the two coaches find themselves in another competition.

ONLY IN THE CFL?

"It is something that could possibly only happen in the CFL," continued Higgins.

Michael (Pinball) Clemons of the Toronto Argos is the other candidate in the running for the award, which is based on regular season success, not playoff accomplishments.

Each coach finished with an 11-7 record, but Maciocia doesn't believe he should win. In fact, he believes he should be rated third on the list.

"I'll treat Higgins and Clemons like I treated our quarterbacks (last year), 1A and 1B," said Maciocia, "and I am off the radar screen. I'm flattered to be a finalist. For a first-year coach it doesn't get any better than that.

"But Tom Higgins took a team that hadn't made the playoffs for the last few years and led them to a playoff berth and second place in the West. I would say (the favourite) is Tom Higgins."

After a brutal 4-14 2004 campaign, the Stampeders did finish ahead of the Esks in the regular season last year.

"What we did last year was amazing," admitted Higgins.

"But I think the (award) nomination is a reflection on new ownership and the way we were able to put a staff together."

However, Maciocia has his share of supporters.

"The other candidates are very qualified, but Danny definitely deserves to win in terms of the job he did taking a team that had gone 9-9 the year before and came one game from finishing in first place (in 2005)," said Eskimo defensive end Tim Fleiszer.

The rookie head coach - who also pulled double-duty by calling the offensive plays - did it all with a lineup featuring many new faces.

"It is difficult to gel as well as we did," continued Fleiszer.

"You know, there are a lot of difficult personalities to balance in our locker-room and Danny did a fantastic job of that."

ATTRACTING PRAISE

Not surprisingly, Maciocia is also attracting praise from his old boss.

"I'm very proud of him," said Higgins. "He learned his lessons very well and was very much ready to take over as a coach."

The two former associates turned rivals will find out who takes the Annis Stukus Trophy on Feb. 23 in Toronto.

LATE HIT: Clemons is a finalist for the award for the fourth consecutive year but has never won.

"If there is someone overdue to win it, I would say it's Pinball Clemons," said Maciocia. "Pinball was 11-7 and won the East, which is a division that hasn't been won by any other team but Montreal for a number of years.

"That is something a lot of people have to take into consideration."

Toronto won their first division title since 1997.

EXTRA POINTS: Maciocia is the first Eskimo Canadian-born head coach since Annis Stukis to be up for the award ... Maciocia's offence posted the best average time of possession in '05.


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