Esks steal Chapdelaine away from Lions

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

As a coach, Danny Maciocia doesn't often go for the big play. But he did yesterday.

The Edmonton Eskimos head coach scored a major acquisition in Jacques Chapdelaine to replace himself as offensive co-ordinator.

A take-what-they-give-you kind of coach, Maciocia decided to go for the big play he perceived as not likely being there.

Touchdown!

"At one point I just asked myself who I'd most really like to have here,'' said Maciocia.

"I told myself, 'Who are you kidding? Why would he come here?

"He just won the Grey Cup. He'll be interviewing for the head coaching jobs.' I knew going in it was a long shot. But I asked Wally Buono for permission and it was granted.

"I took it and ran with it. Real hard.

"I knew his son Matt is playing football here for the Golden Bears. I knew family was important to him ...''

POSITION CREATED

Knowing Chapdelaine was highly unlikely to make a lateral move away from a Grey Cup championship team, Maciocia created the position of associate head coach to go with offensive co-ordinator, doubled up the dollars and ... well, maybe not double dollars.

"He's getting paid what I believe an offensive co-ordinator should be paid,'' said Maciocia. "More than I was paid.''

Give Maciocia credit.

He wasn't surrounded with much in his first two years as head coach here. In a way, that may have saved his job at mid-season because there wasn't anybody capable of taking over if they'd fired him.

Now Maciocia has hired that guy himself.

All in all, the Eskimos offer caught Chapdelaine off guard.

"It was a pleasant surprise,'' he said.

"It's an exciting opportunity. It'll allow me to cut my teeth a little bit in moving forward to a career opportunity,'' he added of positioning himself to become a head coach.

Chapdelaine, who won a Grey Cup ring as offensive co-ordinator of the B.C. Lions this year, also won the Cup with Calgary in 2001.

His credentials also include a Vanier Cup as head coach of Laval in 1999.

"Clearly Jacques is respected in the CFL and the country,'' Maciocia added of the Simon Fraser grad who played seven seasons in the CFL before becoming a coach.

"He's head-coaching material. He'll have a chance to grow here.''

Maciocia says the hiring sends the message that he's making a commitment to "surround myself with quality people.''

CAMPBELL WILL RETURN

Eskimo fans aren't all going to love the idea that Maciocia made it official yesterday that Rick Campbell is going to return as defensive co-ordinator, with Malvin Hunter in charge of the defensive line and Dan Kepley the linebacker coach.

The Hugh Campbell optics haven't changed there.

Maciocia has yet to work out special-teams coaching or settle on what he's going to do with the offensive line, running back and receiver coaches under Chapdelaine.

But it's hard to find a flaw with this hire and the title to go with it. This almost ensures Maciocia will have to take his hands off the offence and allow Chapdelaine to do the job he was hired to do as Maciocia steps back to work with the bigger picture.

While Ricky Ray wasn't available for comment, he should be happy with the hire.

Chapdelaine has spent years working with Dave Dickenson in B.C. and the two are very similar quarterbacks.

"They both understand and read defences very well," said Chapdelaine. "Ricky is not only level-headed, he's a very tough competitor and certainly appears to be a team type of guy.''

The bigger concern is working with Maciocia, who must divorce himself of offensive co-ordinator duties.

"Danny is a pretty stand-up guy,'' said Chapdelaine of his belief it'll work out.

Maciocia was smart enough to hire him. Hopefully he's smart enough to let him do his job.


Photos