Ricky Ray is pivotal to the Edmonton Eskimos future, said new general manager Eric Tillman.
The starting pivot factors heavily into Tillman's immediate plans, despite the club's 2-8 record.
"I think Ricky is an elite talent," Tillman said. "There are quarterbacks in this league you can win with and there are quarterbacks you can win because of. I believe he's a guy you can win because of."
With only two wins to his name so far, Ray has fallen to fifth place in passing yardage and is currently eighth overall with a career-low 81.2 quarterback efficiency rating.
"Unfortunately this year, far too often he's looked like the mailman being chased by a Doberman pinscher," said Tillman, who worked public relations with the Houston Oilers in 1981 when Kenny Stabler was quarterback. "We had played the Jets and I think Kenny had thrown four or five interceptions and his response after the game: 'It's hard to be accurate when you're sitting on a certain part of your anatomy.'
"So we need to do a better job of protecting Ricky. I thought a big step was taken in the right direction last week."
The Eskimos released starting offensive tackle Calvin Armstrong, while second-year O-lineman Greg Wojt filled in with his second career start against the Calgary Stampeders.
But Ray doesn't take too much comfort in his new GM's words.
"It's a performance-based league, it can change at any time," Ray said. "It's a great game, but it's a business, too. So you never know what direction or how well they're going to evaluate you, I just try to go out there and play hard."