EDMONTON - Accolades aside, Kavis Reed couldn’t mask his disappointment.
Never mind the club’s turnaround this season, the fact more than half their roster was new and that they hosted a playoff game for the first time in seven years. For the Edmonton Eskimos head coach, all he was concerned with was that he couldn’t guide his team to the Grey Cup game.
That was the goal in his first year at the helm.
“I’ve battled the perfectionist tendencies all my life and I’m not satisfied because we’re not playing in the final game,” Reed said. “That’s just the way I’m wired. I’m sorely disappointed that we’re not playing in that game, not from a personal perspective, but a perspective from this team, the way this character team worked.
“I’m very disappointed in the fact I wasn’t able to take us to that point.”
The Eskimos went from a seven-win team to an 11-win team in one season with Reed at the helm and Eric Tillman calling the shots from the general manager’s chair.
They beat the Calgary Stampeders last week to get into the West Final, where they were outplayed by the B.C. Lions en route to a 40-23 defeat.
On Monday, the players cleared out their lockers and prepared to go their separate ways for the off-season.
“I think (Reed) did a great job setting expectations for us this year,” said Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray. “I think guys bought into his system and we really came together and became a tight-knit team. That always makes football a lot more fun.”
From the beginning, Reed came in trying to restore some of the pride in a franchise that had lost its way after winning the Grey Cup in 2005.
Having achieved that in his first year calling the shots, the key for the Eskimos is to keep moving forward.
Expectations will be higher heading into next season.
“It’s a situation where there are a lot of lessons to be learned from adverse situations,” Reed said. “We came up a game short of where we wanted to be and that’s a painful situation. At the same time, we can go backwards or we can go forward.”
With a young, talented core, the club goes into the off-season optimistic about its future. The feeling around the locker-room as personal belongings were being stuffed into garbage bags was that if the core could stay together, the Eskimos could be a force for years to come.
“I think the character of this team has shown throughout the entire year,” Reed said. “I feel that during this off-season that will be part of the fuel that will allow them to work a little harder, prepare a little better and we’ll be more prepared next year to make that run.”
Reed believes his team is on the right path and most of the changes made to the club this past season were positive.
They just didn’t have enough to compete with the Lions on Sunday.
“I think in terms of personnel we have in the locker-room, we have the right character,” Reed said. “We have a lot of talent, there are areas that we are going to need to have to address. Some of our guys are not going to be back, but I feel that we’re on the right path.
“I truly believe every decision we’re going to make this off-season is going to be very important to our success. If we’re complacent about what we’ve accomplished this year I think that will work against our progress.”
For the Eskimos, the target goal heading into the season was to keep pace with the Lions, Calgary Stampeders and Saskatchewan Roughriders.
They know their division opponents won’t be standing pat this off-season.
“B.C. definitely had our number this year,” Reed said. “Saskatchewan is a good team already, they’re going to get better, Calgary is a good team already, they’re going to get better. For us, we’re going to make certain that we’re staying ahead of the game and making smart decisions to get bigger and faster.”