Failure to launch

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:00 AM ET

The Edmonton Eskimos are subjecting themselves to an ugly multiple-choice question.

After breaking down in every facet of the game in the first half last Saturday in Hamilton, the Green and Gold continued a frustrating trend.

In nine of 12 regular-season games this year, Edmonton has trailed on the scoreboard at halftime.

More disturbing for the club might be the lack of production in the first quarter, when Edmonton is averaging just 3.5 points. It only gets marginally better in the second quarter, when they score five points.

The sorry numbers beg the question: Why does this team struggle coming out of the gate in critical games?

Is it:

a) lack of motivation

b) lack of focus

c) lack of talent

d) lack of effort

e) a combination of all of the above

When head coach Danny Maciocia played the pride card before the back-end of the Labour Day rematch -- asking his players to play with pride -- it worked. The Esks responded with a solid first-half effort and went on to victory.

Now, he's playing a similar card with his season hanging in the balance and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats coming to town Friday night.

"Who motivates you when you come to do this interview?" said Maciocia to the media yesterday.

"Who motivates me to come to work?

"If (the players) are not self-motivated, we have some issues here.

"There is only so much motivation you can translate or try to pass on to the players (as a coach).

"The fact of the reality is that you have to be proud of what you do."

Maciocia then tried to paint a very clear picture for his players.

"Coach Lancaster is going to come here and try to beat me (Friday)," he said of his Hamilton counterpart.

"And that to me is motivation enough.

"When I take the field I don't want to play second fiddle to no one.

"I think for the most part these guys need to understand that it's going to be a one-on-one battle out there.

"And at the end of the day, if you win enough of those battles the scoreboard will read in your favour."

The rocky and ugly start to games has veteran Mike Bradley scratching his head.

"When you look at the way we play on the field I would say yes (there's a motivation problem)," commented Bradley.

"But the attitude in the locker room and the way guys are carrying themselves, I would say no. I don't know why that is happening.

"Right now, the simple answer is that we aren't playing good football."

Receiver Trevor Gaylor believes it's not a lack of motivation for the flat starts.

"Maybe a lack of focus," he replied.

"It's weird, unless our backs are against the wall, we won't respond in the right way.

"I think for whatever reason, when you have 1:50 left and you are 90 yards away, your focus is a little bit more."

The Eskimos put together a game-saving drive against Calgary two weeks ago and then nearly pulled the same trick against Hamilton until Ricky Ray fumbled.

If it's a lack of talent that is causing the ugly starts and frustrating results, Maciocia isn't going to admit it.

"I will never be critical of what we have got in there," said the coach of his locker room.

"Those are the guys we have and those are the guys we are going to line up with and those are the guys I expect to win with.

"At the end of the year, we will sit down and take a good hard look at every position on this football team."

In other words, players are playing for their jobs right now.


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