Concert time for Esks?

Eskimos GM Eric Tillman says now is the time for the Eskimos to be note-perfect in their execution....

Eskimos GM Eric Tillman says now is the time for the Eskimos to be note-perfect in their execution. (QMI Agency file)

Terry Jones, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

EDMONTON - When they’ve lost, and this is the first time in CFL history everybody in this league has lost at least seven times, the Edmonton Eskimos have talked about it being another lesson learned.

Like last week. They didn’t show up on defence for the first two series in the biggest game of the year.

They dug a 14-0 hole against the B.C. Lions they couldn’t dig themselves out of. They failed for about the fourth time this season to seize a moment they’d created for themselves. Lessons learned.

Well, enough with learning lessons. School’s out, right?

They’re going against a team that was 0-9 this year against Western Conference opposition, and the stated goal this season by both G.M. and head coach has been to play host to a home playoff game for the first time since 2004.

And while they gagged last week on the game to give them their first Western Final since 2003, here it is. On the table. In front of them. Put up or shut up.

Exactly, says G.M. Eric Tillman.

No, not quite exactly, says head coach Kavis Reed.

“We’ve made tremendous progress in Year One but along the way, we’ve hit some sour notes,” said Tillman.

“That’s all part of the developmental process with a young group. But eventually, youth has to be served, right? This team has come a long way in one year, but it’s concert time — and there’s no longer any room for sour notes.

“I suppose those kinds of growing pains are to be expected with so many new players. But we’ve now reached the point where those growing pains need to culminate in consistency and excellence. No more explanations or rationale. It’s November.

“No doubt Kavis has done a remarkable job steering this team — not letting them get too high when we started fast, not letting them get too low when we experienced some bumps.

That said, it’s time for our men to embrace what we told them that very first day of training camp: in Edmonton, you don’t play the game to be competitive; you play it to be Grey Cup champions.”

It’s been a short week since the large letdown.

So it was left Thursday to Reed, at his pre-game press conference, to explain his approach to this game.

“Given the relative youth of our team, I can’t endorse that school is out for us because every situation for us moving forward might be their first experience,” he said.

“Playing for first place last week and having the opportunity to lock up first place was a first for most of our guys in the lineup. Only experience is going to allow them to grow.

“That was a good experience because it was a playoff atmosphere. Hopefully moving forward that experience will allow us to be a little bit better.”

Like Tillman, Reed, the day he was hired, identified the goal for the year being a home playoff game.

“When I stated that at the outset it was with one thing in mind. This franchise has been so used to being in the playoffs every year — 34 consecutive years — and more than 65-70% of those games were at home.

“As a player here for five seasons, we put on the ledger that we were going to have a home playoff date.

“And that wasn’t arrogance. That was an expectation, going hand-in-hand with returning this team to the tradition that this club has, having a home playoff date. It is having that expectation that Commonwealth is going to play host to a home playoff game.”

So, boot their butts out the dressing room door and tell them to win the flippin’ football game?

“It’s not the way we had to approach this week,” said Reed “It’s like the kid having the $5 as his allowance going to the candy store. You don’t want him to get too excited and spend the entire five bucks on something he’s going to not want.

“Our guys are very excited with what has happened this year and the possibilities leading into next season. For us as a coaching staff, the psychology of it has to be tremendously monitored.

“We have to know when to dial it down to them and when to turn it up with them, and I think this week is one where we know there is a lot riding on this game but we can’t speak about that because of our relative youth. We want to make sure these guys understand that taking the business approach of doing what you do will allow you to be successful.”

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones


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