Eskimos searching for answers

Edmonton Eskimos head coach Richie Hall grimaces as he watches from the sidelines during the second...

Edmonton Eskimos head coach Richie Hall grimaces as he watches from the sidelines during the second half of the Eskimos versus the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Winnipeg Saturday. (FRED GREENSLADE/Reuters)

CON GRIWKOWSKY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:03 AM ET

Forget the identity crisis.

The hole the Edmonton Eskimos dug for themselves in a 47-21 loss at Winnipeg Saturday afternoon is nothing short of a full-blown crisis.

Positives are in short supply for the 0-4 team, so let’s get them out of the way early.

“We scored in the fourth quarter,” said head coach Richie Hall.

He’d just come off the field after the team’s run-down and a meeting with the team captains on how best to snap the team out of its freefall.

“A lot of people are pissed off and disgusted with us,” said Hall. “Well, so are we.”

Whether the Clintonesque ‘I feel your pain’ appeal will wash with the fans and more importantly, with Hall’s bosses, remains to be seen.

Mr. Nice Guy

It’s not a question of Hall turning nasty, Mr. Nice Guy turning into football’s version of Mike Keenan.

“I don’t know what niceness has to do with it,” said Hall. “The bottom line is not what you say, it’s how you come across. I’m the same person I was at that other place (Saskatchewan). We have to go out individually and get the job done.

“My job is to prepare the players, their job is to go out there and play. Right now, we’re not prepared well enough and we’re not playing well enough.”

It’s certain somebody will lose their job over the latest non-performance and we’ll find out who when the team returns to work on Tuesday.

Saturday’s fiasco was nothing short of a total team effort.

“A butt-kicking,” was how Hall described the rout. “Don’t sugarcoat it. That’s what I said (Saturday) night. I would have said something else but that’s what it is.”

In their previous two losses, the Eskimos looked like they had the makings of a good team ... if only they had learned how to hang on to the ball.

“Maybe we were just fooling ourselves when we looked at those two games,” said Hall. “The dam broke and we saw the results.”

Going into Friday’s home game against B.C., a team that’s already escaped with a win at Commonwealth this month, there’s no simple fix.

Is it a question of a team that has lost its collective confidence after breakdowns in other units?

‘Believe’

“One of the things I said to the guys last night was if you don’t believe in this team now, you never did believe in it from the beginning,” said Hall. “At the beginning, it was 0-0 and it’s easy to believe in your team when it’s 0-0 or 0-1. Do you believe in your team at 0-4 and when adversity hits? If you don’t believe in us now, you didn’t believe in us from Day 1.”

But there was one recurring theme in Hall’s rant.

“They’re punching us in the face and we’re not punching back,” said Hall. “There’s things that happen during the course of a game.

“You have to respond, you have to bounce back.”

Whatever it was about the resilient 2009 team seems to be missing with this squad.

“We haven’t learned anything,” said Hall. “We’re falling into the same old trap. We have to be mentally tougher. We have to be physically tougher. When we’ve had success, it’s because we’ve been aggressive, it’s been when we’ve inflicted our will on the opposition.

“It still comes back to attitude ... and we don’t have that. We’re getting punched too many times before we punch back.”

It’s that need for an attitude adjustment that prompted the meeting with team captains.

“The reality is what we’ve done hasn’t worked, so how do you find answers?” said Hall. “Mental toughness is one thing that’s lacking in our football team right now. This is their football team. Like I told them (captains), we’re all part of the problem and we’ll all be part of the solution.

“The first thing I asked is, ‘how can I help, what can I do?’ That’s where it starts. Maybe there’s something I’m not doing or maybe there’s something more they need out of me.”

con.griwkowsky@sunmedia.ca


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