Esks’ GM promises action

Edmonton Eskimos general manager Eric Tillman (Codie McLachlan/QMI Agency)

Edmonton Eskimos general manager Eric Tillman (Codie McLachlan/QMI Agency)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:43 AM ET

EDMONTON - Two words.

That was the reaction of Eric Tillman when asked what he's got planned for the 17 days between games for the Edmonton Eskimos.

No, not those two words.

"Action and accountability," he said.

When you lose a third straight game after a 5-0 start to the season and score only one point for the first time since the team moved into Commonwealth Stadium -- indeed, for the first time in 40 years at home -- Tillman says you have to promise action.

But the team, which gave up eight more sacks (to make it 18 sacks in the last three games after giving up only seven in the first five) has time between now and when it gets back on the field to prepare for Labour Day in Calgary to do a real thorough self-evaluation.

Action?

"Judge us by what we do to get better -- not by what we say," said Tillman.

Accountability?

"Judge us by our record. There's plenty of good and bad in our 5-3 start, but the season series with Calgary will be determined by this Labour Day series. These next two games, and how much we've altered and improved, could very well determine first place.

"It's been a long time since the Eskimos finished first in the West, but success in Edmonton is, and should be, measured by home playoff games and championships. If we're being intimidated by those high standards, we shouldn't be here, should we? That's what I mean by accountability."

It never really got to the point where Edmonton, which hasn't played host to a playoff game since 2004 or finished first since 2003, had caught Grey Cup fever despite the 5-0 start. But it's like people are now totally expecting the three-game losing streak to turn into five with the traditional two against Calgary.

"Some of our actions will be evident -- via roster moves -- in the next two weeks," he said.

"But other actions will be things less obvious but just as important -- like maximizing individual skill sets, changing formations and techniques. Since the Stamps coaching staff can read, it would be foolish to elaborate on that.

"As disappointed and frustrating as this latest loss was, it's important for us to maintain our poise in the face of adversity. Non-emotional decisions 24 hours removed from the game are usually much wiser than post-game, knee-jerk ones.

"That said, clearly we have to be our own harshest critics -- looking beyond the 5-3 record and seeing our strengths and weaknesses, both of which are clear minus the emotion.

"We need to acknowledge where we need to get better and don't sugar-coat it with rationalizations or excuses."

So how, exactly, does the new general manager address this astronomically underachieving last three games following such astounding success to start the season?

"It has to start with improved protection," he said.

"We have to do a better job in our defensive secondary.

"We must see our challenges with absolute clarity. We need to identify who is playing poorly. We need to see what isn't working schematically. And we need to make whatever changes are required for the collective good. There are several things to build on from the five-game winning streak. But some other things simply can't remain the status quo."

Not so tough with the NFL cuts, you say?

"Our first game with Calgary is Sept. 5. The final NFL cuts are Sept. 3. The reality is any major influx of NFL cuts will come after the Labour Day series is completed.

"The good news is we'll be getting several key players back for one or both of these next two games. But we can't rely on that like some magic wand.

"Championships are won by teams -- in the collective sense -- not individuals. It's on all of us to improve, be it coaches, players or administrators. We're in this together."

Stupid thing is that with a Calgary loss to Montreal this week, the Eskimos could still be tied for first place. But there's no way anybody involved can look at it that way. The Eskimos went into the break as, quite clearly, the worst team in the league at this very moment. And one of those teams has lost four in a row and just fired their head coach.

Twitter.com/sunterryjones


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