Woe, Danny boys

Eskimos head coach Danny Maciocia answers questions during a news conference at Commonwealth...

Eskimos head coach Danny Maciocia answers questions during a news conference at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton on Thursday morning. The Eskies face off against the Riders on Friday. (Edmonton Sun/Brendon Dlouhy)

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

Danny Barrett is used to his neck being in a noose. He's been coaching from the edge of a cliff for years.

It's just that he's getting tired of going from town to town where they're building gallows for the other guy.

"Can I catch a break? I keep going into the fire," said the Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach.

"Earlier in the season, we go into B.C. and they're after Wally. I couldn't believe that," he said of Lions' coach Wally Buono. "Then it's Calgary," he said of fans being all over Tom Higgins after a three-game losing streak. Now we come here and, well, I've noticed it in a change of headlines up here. They're bringing up the ghosts of 34 years."

This one, with all the Saskatchewan fans around these parts, is more of a duet. Oh, Danny boys ...

With Edmonton having lost three straight and going against the 3-4 Riders with a 2-5 record - the worst start by an Eskimos team in 34 years - both Dannys, Barrett and Maciocia, are hearing them calling.

"It's the CFL," says Barrett. "It's not what have you done for us lately, it's what have you done for us yesterday."

BAD VIBE GOING AROUND

Maciocia has picked up on that.

"First it was Wally, then Tom Higgins started hearing it in Calgary," he said. "I'm going through it. Danny is going through it a bit."

Barrett said he read on the plane yesterday for the press conference prior to tonight's Danny Boy Bowl they're stoking the fire under his hot seat.

"There was something written in Regina about getting our guys to play or else," he said.

Barrett has done what no Saskatchewan coach has done since the '70s - make the playoffs four years in a row.

But when this season started, Roughriders chairman Graham Barker went on the record as saying GM Roy Shivers and Barrett had to provide the team their first home playoff game since 1988 and their second in 30 years, to keep their jobs.

"That was never said to me directly," said Barrett. "But my job is to win. Four years in the playoffs in a row, five years in the playoffs in a row ... I'm here to win a championship.

"To me having a home playoff game is not setting the bar high enough. What if you have a home playoff game and lose? Do I get a new contract?"

Both Barrett and Shivers are in the last years of their deals.

"I just want to get in. It's been proven in the league, especially in the last several years, that if you get in the playoffs, you can win the Grey Cup," Barrett said.

Maciocia did it with a third-place team last year, making all the right moves when it mattered most. The Edmonton coach admits he's already weary of hearing about the Eskimos streak of 34 straight seasons in the playoffs.

"That one tires me more than anything else," said Maciocia. "If that's what it's about, let me step aside and let someone else run it. It's about being successful in the post-season."

Maciocia then went on a bit of a blitz (oops, sorry, bad choice of words) about all the changes there have been here in his term - more changes (19 last year and in double figures again this year) than he's had games (25) in his pro career so far.

"You could easily panic. You could say 'I don't have time to develop. We've got to get it done right now.' That's what you do when you panic.' "

Barrett, by contrast, has made few changes from year to year. He has a veteran club and the criticism is he's such a player's coach that his players don't have a fear of failure.

It's a contrasting backdrop going into the first of three games the two teams will play this year. Barrett's trying to convince his team to go to work and Maciocia to tell his team to have fun.

"There's been no shortage of effort. We need to fly around and not worry about what could go wrong. I think we've had a 'Something bad is going to happen to us,' way of playing," he said.

FINALLY A TEAM WITHOUT A WINNING RECORD

For the Eskimos, it's their first game of the season against a team which doesn't have a winning record. For the Riders, it's only the second game this season against somebody other than the Lions or Stampeders.

"To me, to play two teams in six of seven games gets old. It gets boring," said Barrett.

Boring? Let's not go there.


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