In coach's corner

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:29 AM ET

When was the last time the Edmonton Eskimos played so pathetic from the start of a season?

When did they last look to be drifting as aimlessly as they've looked lately?

Don't ask me. I don't know. I've only been covering this club since the last time they missed the playoffs back in 1971.

That's how bad it is.

But don't fire the coach.

Danny Maciocia doesn't look like he has a clue what to do next as head coach.

As offensive co-ordinator he appears even more baffled about an outfit that can't run, can't throw for more than eight yards and now can't block a stiff breeze.

But don't sack the coach.

Defensive co-ordinator Rick Campbell - he of the famed eight-man-up Milt Stegall 100-yard last-play-of-the-game touchdown to turn a win into a loss - has become a punchline for jokes.

BONEHEADED GAFFE REPEATED

Friday night in Vancouver, possibly for no better reason than to prove his blitz-instead-of-cover concept was brilliant, Campbell called it again with the B.C. Lions in a second-and-29 situation deep in their own zone.

Again nobody looked like they knew what to do. This time Geroy Simon ran for a 92-yard touchdown.

The TSN crew did an outstanding job of documenting the entire farce, including showing the Milt Stegall play with numbers on each of the eight defenders up and then doing the same thing on the Simon replay to prove it was the same call with the same result.

Send out a press release that his play has been canned, but don't can the head coach.

Ricky Ray, for the first six games, looked like a quarterback afraid to throw the football. Now it's with good reason. Now his offensive line is beginning to collapse around him.

For the first six games of the season the iffy-looking offensive line held and the inability to go vertical left Maciocia and Ray to blame.

In Vancouver, with Patrick Kabongo getting manhandled by Brent Johnson and even veteran Dan Comiskey turning into a turnstile, Ray had no hope.

Maciocia has yet to figure out a way for Ray to get the ball to Jason Tucker. The two should be the best pass and catch combination in the league, but Ray can't or won't go there.

Tucker gets separation. Ray isn't getting that with Ed Hervey. It's there with Tucker. The ball has to get there.

As was the case during struggles last season, the Eskimos don't have a running game again. Last year, the acquisition of Troy Davis solved the problem. This year it looks like Davis has lost a step or a gear. Whatever the reason, there's no running game.

Think of all the penalties and terrible tackling we've watched this year. This is also an offence that has scored an average of two points in the first quarter and six, zero, 10, 17, four, three and zero points, respectively, in the first half of their seven games so far this season. All of these factors suggest this is an offence that isn't prepared to play.

We're also dealing with the most boring team fans have been forced to watch here since Kay Stephenson was head coach.

So, with all that out there, why wouldn't you fire the coach? Why wouldn't you pull the plug on Danny Maciocia?

The No. 1 reason is because he hasn't lost the locker-room. This team, while it has a funny way of showing it, is still there to be coached out of this funk by the guy.

The Eskimos have only once fired a coach at mid-season. Pete Kettela was turfed after losing on Labour Day in 1983, and seeing the club's record fall to 4-4. He'd lost the locker-room. That hasn't happened here. Yet.

NOBODY QUALIFIED TO REPLACE MACIOCIA

You also don't fire Maciocia because there's no better option. Who would you replace him with? There's certainly nobody on his own staff who qualifies.

And Greg Marshall, who went 0-4 at the helm of the Tiger-Cats earlier this year before being fired, has nothing in his history to offer this situation.

Not Jim Daley. Not somebody who doesn't know the CFL.

Maciocia had himself surrounded with his challenges last year and found a way to get through them and win a Grey Cup.

That also buys him more time than he's had so far.

One other thing. If he can get through this, I really believe Maciocia has what it takes to be a first-rate Wally Buono-calibre coach in this league for a long, long time.

If the Eskimos don't share that belief, when the season is over, maybe they should go after Buono himself.

I say leave Maciocia in there to sink or swim.

If he drowns and the Eskimos miss the playoffs for the first time in 34 years, whoever is coaching when that happens is going to be gone anyhow.

Don't fire the coach. But take all the potshots at everybody in sight.

It's now officially open season on the Edmonton Eskimos.


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