Forget ‘Grey Cup Or Bust’ and getting to the big game in Commonwealth Stadium Nov. 28.
Two things have to happen first.
The goals for this season for the Edmonton Eskimos should be:
A. Play host to a playoff game.
B. Finish ahead of the Calgary Stampeders.
You have to go back to 2004. That was the last time the Eskimos had a home playoff game. It was also the last time the team finished ahead of the Stampeders in the standings.
Those two things have to start happening on a regular basis for GM Danny Maciocia if he’s going to be around to enjoy running the team which, with the $110 million in improvements to Commonwealth Stadium, will very much be an NFL operation in the CFL.
Maciocia, as a head coach or GM, has done neither.
As a rookie head coach, he won the Grey Cup in 2005. But the Eskimos’ 13th Grey Cup was the first one the flagship franchise had ever won playing all their playoff games on the road. And, of course, the next year came the end of Edmonton’s North American pro sports record 34 consecutive years in the playoffs.
What has followed has been the total tear-down and rebuild of a team which only had to reload all those years since the sad-sack sixties, the only stretch in Eskimos history in which they were worse.
Maciocia, following the act of Hugh Campbell, who had the Eskimos in home playoff games in Commonwealth Stadium for 25 consecutive years in which he was associated with the team as coach, GM or CEO, has been the architect of the rebuild which now has to be considered near complete.
As the Eskimos are about to begin the season in the stadium where the Grey Cup will be played but where a playoff game hasn’t been held since 2004, now is as good a time as any to put it to Maciocia.
And guess what? He agrees. It’s time. And the time has come.
Maciocia feels like the pieces are finally in place to make things start happening again. It’s been a long time coming together.
“We feel we’ve turned the corner. We like the direction were headed in all areas of the franchise.
“The theme this year is continuity,” he said.
“You can start with Richie Hall and myself. It’s our second year together.
We have a better understanding of each other. We share the same vision,” Maciocia said of his head coach.
“It’s the same with Richie and his staff. With the exception of the defensive line coach, there’s consistency there. And the biggest thing in that area may be that Richie is back running the defence,” he said of the head coach deciding to be his own defensive coordinator like he was at the place he coached before he came here.
“On offence we have consistency even in throwing out a name like Kelly Campbell,” he said of the receiver returning to the team after a year attempting, one last time, to crack the NFL.
Quarterback Ricky Ray has more weapons at his disposal and more familiarity with the people around him than he’s had since the Grey Cup years in 2003 and 2005.
“On defence we obviously had to make some changes on the back end,” Maciocia said of the defensive secondary. But those changes were made with defensive players for the most part with Lenny Walls, Lawrence Gordon and Chris Thompson.
“The starting linebackers are status quo. And on the defensive front four there’s continuity there as well with Dario Romero, Kai Ellis and Greg Peach.”
Put it all together, stay relatively healthy and ...
“Hopefully it translates to being a team which is able to close off football games, which we didn’t do well last year. Hopefully that would translate to a few more wins. And hopefully that would translate into a home playoff game. That’s something we should definitely shoot for this season. That home playoff game should be our goal.
“And would I fall of my chair if we finished first? Absolutely not.”