Search begins for Esks

Danny Maciocia will stay on as the GM and Director of Football Operations for the Esks. (Sun...

Danny Maciocia will stay on as the GM and Director of Football Operations for the Esks. (Sun Media/Ken Armstrong)

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

EDMONTON -- It's a field of six in the race to replace Danny Maciocia.

The Edmonton Eskimos have narrowed their list to six candidates -- Calgary Stampeders defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones, Richie Hall, Mike Benevides, Noel Thorpe, Doug Berry and Greg Marshall -- to be their next head coach, a source has told Sun Media.

Maciocia stepped down yesterday as bench boss to become the new GM and director of football operations, kicking off the search for the 18th head coach in Eskimos history.

While Berry -- the former Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach and a close friend of Maciocia's -- will be considered a frontrunner by some experts, there are concerns about whether his intense nature fits the locker room.

On the other hand, Jones is the hot ticket in the CFL right now. The Stamps' defensive co-ordinator is coming off a Grey Cup win last weekend, when his unit held Anthony Calvillo and the Montreal Alouettes' high-powered offence to just one touchdown in a 22-14 triumph.

Through a Stampeders spokesperson, Jones declined to comment yesterday.

At the moment, Maciocia doesn't have permission to speak with Jones about the opening.

Benevides, the B.C. Lions defensive co-ordinator, is in Toronto today to interview for the Argos' coaching vacancy.

"I would definitely listen to Danny," Benevides said.

But Benevides also made it clear Maciocia would have to receive permission from B.C. head coach Wally Buono to conduct an interview.

Marshall might be the most interesting name on the list considering he lost the race to be Edmonton's head coach in December 2004.

But Maciocia and Marshall won a Grey Cup together in Edmonton as assistants in 2003. They know each other well and the door is clearly open on the Eskimos' side to having another discussion.

As the defensive co-ordinator in Winnipeg, Marshall appears to be the runner-up in the search for the Bombers' next head coach, a job which Eskimos receivers coach Mike Kelly is expected to be fill.

Marshall wasn't available for comment yesterday.

Hall carries an impressive defensive coaching resume in Saskatchewan, helping the Riders win the 2007 Grey Cup.

Widely respected within the Eskimos' compound, Hall is expected to speak to the media today on his interest level in applying for the job.

What is certain is Thorpe is interested in guiding the Eskimos into 2009.

Watching his words very carefully yesterday, the Green and Gold's special team co-ordinator was not lobbying for the position.

"I am here to support Danny," said Thorpe just moments after Maciocia stepped down from coaching yesterday afternoon.

But it's clear Thorpe's stock is on the rise. He spent six years (2002-07) handling Montreal's special teams and defensive coverage unit, and the Als had a 68-40 regular-season record and advanced to the Grey Cup four times during that span.

"If I were a candidate, I have a solid understanding of two thirds of the game, having coached both defensively and special teams," Thorpe said. "The players have a respect for my knowledge and effort level. They see the passion."

Overlooked by many is the fact Thorpe was the only coach -- besides Maciocia -- this past year to address the entire team in game-planning meetings on a weekly basis.

It's expected the next head coach will be named between Dec. 10-20, when Maciocia returns from CFL meetings in Las Vegas.


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