Esks players shocked

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:19 PM ET

They were in plenty of battles together over the years and owe a lot to Danny Maciocia. On Saturday , quarterbacks Ricky Ray and Jason Maas were surprised to learn the club’s general manager and director of football operations had been fired by the Edmonton Eskimos. “It’s a tough day for us,” Ray said. “Danny has meant so much to me and my career. He’s helped me become the player I am today. “We’re all a little bit shocked, all a little bit disappointed that we played a big role in it coming to this. If we had played better on the field, we wouldn’t be in this situation. It falls on us. Danny didn’t drop passes, throw interceptions or miss blocks or do any of that. That was us out there and as a result of our bad play, he’s taken the fall.” According to Eskimos president and CEO Rick LeLacheur, the decision to fire Maciocia was made on Wednesday during a board of directors meeting. The announcement was withheld until Saturday, following the team’s 28-25 victory over the B.C. Lions at Commonwealth Stadium. “We all understand that football is a great game, but it’s a horrible business,” Ray said. “Unfortunately, things like this happen.” Friday’s win was the Eskimos first of the season, having started the year with an 0-4 record. Prior to the contest against the Lions, LeLacheur put the team on notice, stating no one’s job was safe. Maciocia had been under scrutiny since winning the Grey Cup with the Eskimos in 2005. The club missed the playoffs twice and have just one playoff win in that span. “That’s one of the reasons we all love playing here, because the city expects a winner every year,” Maas said. “When you’re not doing that, they grow a great disdain for you. “It’s very obvious playing here. If you don’t win, things like this happen, you have to deal with it and move on. It’s a sad day though.” As the architect of the club, all of the blame for the team’s struggles in recent years fell on Maciocia. “If people only knew how much heart and soul he put into this,” Ray said. “He’s put so much into this organization and I don’t think a lot of people appreciate that.” Prior to the 2009 season, Maciocia stepped away from the bench to take the general manager and director of football operations position. His contract was due up at the end of the year. “He’s someone that I had a great deal of respect for and I have no shame in saying I loved the guy,” Maas said. “When someone like that is let go from your organization, it’s a sad day. “I know he had greater expectations than what we’ve showed at the start of the season, although I feel we’re heading in the right direction. But I guess this is what happens when you don’t meet expectations.” With Edmonton playing host to the Grey Cup this year, the Eskimos believed they had a team that could challenge for the CFL title. However, the club got off to an 0-4 start. “Hopefully this brings us together, hopefully this makes us stronger, hopefully this gives us extra motivation to go out there and make amends for what happened,” Ray said. “Knowing Danny, he’d just want us to go there, continue to work hard and get this thing going in the right direction. That’s all he cared about.” — Van Diest

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