Clean sweep

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:20 PM ET

Twice during the season your correspondent fired Edmonton Eskimos head coach Richie Hall.

Let’s make it three.

Gonzo alonzo. Outta here. History.

Sooner than later. Before the end of the week. Ten days tops.

Maybe if Hall had won the last regular-season game in Regina Saturday and returned to old Pile of Bones and won the Western Semifinal, the nicest guy in football could have stayed. But I’m not even sure about that.

Hall survived the 2-9 start to the season because A: there was no one on his staff qualified to replace him as an interim head coach and B: he was also the defensive co-ordinator.

With the exception of mid-season hires Tim Prinsen and Mark Nelson, who both did great jobs, and a couple others, the assistant coaching staff needs to be blown up starting with offensive co-ordinator Kevin Strasser. I think I fired him three times. So lets make it four.

Going. Going. Going. Gonged!

The best way to turn over an assistant staff is to fire the head coach. And while there are no lack of reasons to tie the can to Hall including the failure to have his team show up for opening quarters and his defence giving up 545 points, the second most in Eskimos history, there’s also the Eric Tillman factor.

New Eskimos GM Tillman twice passed Hall over for the head coaching job in Saskatchewan for reasons which haven’t changed.

While some people around the Saskatchewan organization believe Tillman wasn’t sold on Hall’s decision-making ability, mostly there’s been no evidence that Hall is in synch with Tillman’s philosophies. Tillman can’t be successful himself without his head coach believing in the same things.

The new GM went on the record the day he was hired as saying Job 1 will be to dramatically improve the Canadian content. And Job 1B will be to balance the import ratio on offence and defence.

Tillman believes there is no substitute for quality Canadians and clearly he’s going to make that a priority.

To do that, if you’ve studied him at all, you know that Maurice Lloyd is going to be gone for reasons not even including being a cancer on the club and you’ve probably seen the last of the un-Eskimo-like Kelly Campbell, too.

Tillman doesn’t believe in dramatically overpaying import players such as Lloyd, who he didn’t try to stop from leaving Saskatchewan when Danny Maciocia offered him $175,000-plus.

Kerry Joseph was the league’s most outstanding player. When he wanted the moon, Tillman traded him to Toronto. Anton McKenzie left for B.C. for $135,000. Nate Davis was wished well and moved on.

Maciocia messed up his payroll big time. Take Fred Perry and Omarr Morgan from Saskatchewan as free agents who didn’t pay off either.

But what about Ricky Ray and Patrick Kabongo?

Ray makes half a million and is headed to the option year of his contract. And Kabongo, who isn’t close to being the second-best player on the offensive line, is the second-highest paid player on the team.

With Tillman, Ray is probably going to have to take a haircut on his salary, something I suspect he’d do to stay an Eskimo for his entire career if Tillman finds him a new head coach like Kent Austin or an offensive co-ordinator like Dave Dickinson.

And Kabongo? Considering that he’s the most valuable Eskimo player in the community in the off-season, kind of an over-sized Gizmo Williams, that one is going to be interesting.

Tillman’s history is going with young Americans while spending salary cap money to strengthen Canadian content. But not to the point of Kabongo being the second highest paid player.

In 2006 when Tillman took over Saskatchewan mid-season in place of Roy Shivers, he kept some distance and studied head coach Danny Barrett then fired him. They didn’t share philosophies either.

I’ll guarantee you whoever coaches the Eskimos next year won’t have two Canadians starting on defence with three Americans in back-up roles on defence.

Tillman teams don’t have 13 or 14 of the 19 Americans who aren’t quarterbacks playing defence like Hall had all season.

So do the dirty deed, sooner than later, Eric, so we can begin to speculate who you’re going to hire.

There’s no need for an autopsy here. The entire season has been an autopsy.

Next season starts now.

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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