Esks ponder sideline options

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:23 AM ET

Who will make the most convincing argument?

When it comes to picking the Edmonton Eskimos next head coach, the closing argument from each candidate will go a long way to determining the winner.

Each of the six names on the Green and Gold's list of possible successors for Danny Maciocia brings undeniable risk but intriguing upside.

Here is a breakdown of the Eskimos' top six candidates, weighing the pros and cons of each:

1. Richie Hall, Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive co-ordinator

Hall is definitely interested in becoming the Esks' next bench boss.

"Very much so," said Hall.

"I think they're a very respected, very classy organization and good football team."

PROS: The Riders entire starting linebacking unit -- Maurice Lloyd, Anton McKenzie and Sean Lucas -- are set to be free agents this winter.

Both Lloyd and McKenzie were named 2008 CFL all-stars earlier this month, and Lucas is considered an emerging stud.

If Hall could bring a couple of those stars with him to the Esks, he emerges as an instant favourite.

"I think any time a coach moves from one place to another, there is always that carryover of players or staff," admitted Hall.

Another benefit for Hall is the fact the Rider defence gave up the fewest yards in the CFL this year (354).

CONS: Hall has apparently had six interviews to be a head coach in the CFL, including the current vacancy with the Toronto Argonauts, but hasn't succeeded. Why?

2. Doug Berry, former Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach

Wearing his politically correct hat, Berry was pretty quiet yesterday on the possibility of being Edmonton's next head coach.

But a source tells Sun Media Berry is highly motivated to get back into coaching and prove he shouldn't have been fired in Winnipeg this fall.

PROS: Berry is very good friends with Maciocia, the Esks GM and director of football operations.

CONS: Will the Esks hire someone who was just punted out the door elsewhere?

3. Chris Jones, Calgary Stampeders defensive co-ordinator

An engaging person behind the scenes, Jones is the rising hotshot in the CFL coaching department.

PROS: Under Jones' guidance, the Stamps defence gave up a league-low 21.5 points per game in the regular season before winning the Grey Cup this fall.

The Eskimos gave up 26.2 points per game.

Jones built that stellar defence this year with just two returning starters.

CONS: Jones isn't tied to the Esks in any way, meaning Maciocia and Rick LeLacheur need to determine in a short window if this can be a successful marriage.

4. Noel Thorpe, Eskimos special teams co-ordinator and defensive backs coach

The only insider on the Green and Gold's current list of candidates to replace Maciocia, Thorpe is facing a stiff test.

PROS: The club knows what it's dealing with -- professionally and personally -- with Thorpe after seeing him work hard and keep his nose clean this year. That's a huge advantage for the candidate.

CONS: Is Thorpe ready to be a head coach? Can he make the jump to the top position from his current spot?

5. Mike Benevides, B.C. Lions defensive co-ordinator and linebackers coach

Like Thorpe, Benevides is a Canadian in the running.

PROS: Nine years of CFL coaching experience, he was also Calgary's director of Canadian scouting to start the decade. The Toronto native has also learned from one of the masters of coaching -- Wally Buono.

CONS: While Benevides had the CFL's top defender -- Cam Wake -- this year, his B.C. defence gave up 25.4 points per game, nearly the same as the Eskimos.

6. Greg Marshall, Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive co-ordinator and linebackers coach

Living in the Edmonton area, this would be an easy transition.

PROS: Although Thorpe has spent the last year working with Maciocia, a source tells Sun Media the Esks GM knows Marshall the best on this list.

CONS: Winnipeg's defence gave up more yards per game than Edmonton's in 2008. The Bombers also slipped this year in the points department, giving up 71 more points compared to the 2007 edition.


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