Ray trade an outrage

Quarterback Ricky Ray looks to pass against the Stampeders at McMahon Stadium, in Calgary, Alta.,...

Quarterback Ricky Ray looks to pass against the Stampeders at McMahon Stadium, in Calgary, Alta., July 24, 2011. (AL CHAREST/QMI Agency)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:35 AM ET

CALGARY - OK, so lets get this straight again.

It wasn't the Eskimos' idea to trade Ricky Ray.

"Toronto came to us. They were very aggressive. We were reluctant to do so," said Edmonton Eskimos GM Eric Tillman.

Toronto kept coming back to the table, two, three, four times, said Tillman, until they produced an offer that he couldn't turn down.

Steven Jyles!

A back-up quarterback the Eskimos brought into the league in the first place, found wanting and that nobody has much wanted since.

But relax, Edmonton, this doesn't mean Jyles is going to be No. 1.

No, no.

They're hoping he'll be beat out by the clip-board carrier Eric Ward and the fourth stringer Matt Nichols, who the Eskimos pretended was hurt and kept on the injury list all year. And there will also be ancient Kerry Joseph that Tillman brought out of retirement last year.

And you get a largely unproven Edmonton kid, Grant Shaw, back from the Argos as a kicker.

And the No. 2 pick in the Canadian college draft.

What the hell were their first, second and third offers?

A back up quarterback! An unproven kicker! And a Canadian in the bush!

Who could turn down that deal?

For a franchise player in the prime of his career, an Eskimo of tradition who was the poster boy for 'The Eskimo Way', a person of excellent character and an outstanding representative in the community?

The Eskimos just climbed out of the basement to get to the Western Final. And new CEO Len 'The Brand Man' Rhodes is allowing Tillman to make this giant gamble on going back to where they were, by going forward without a credible quarterback much less the No. 1 brand in his band?

Tillman called it win-win.

It looks more like lose-lose.

Ray is now stuck with playing for he Argos.

And Edmonton is left without a quarterback.

This is the biggest trade in Eskimos history and the Oilers got more back in the $18 million sale of Wayne Gretzky!

Jackie Parker was traded to the Argos in 1963. But that was the end of his career. And it wasn't until a decade later, after going through two dozen quarterbacks the likes of Don Trull, Rusty Clarke, Larry Lawrence, Corey Colehour, Charlie Fulton, Harry Theofilides, Frank Cosentino, Terry Baker, Randy Kerbow, Bill Reddell, Lynn Amedee, Jim Walden, James Earl Wright and many more that the Eskimos found Tom Wilkinson, and were able to win again.

That's the risk Tillman is taking here. Jyles, Joseph, Ward and Nichols are more likely to be the first four names on another very long list, than your next Grey Cup MVP.

Tillman thrives on making moves with stop-the-presses shock value, which bring focus on him as the mad genius of the CFL. But this one, it says here, is mostly mad, with minimal amount of genius involved.

Tillman just traded arguably the best quarterback in the Canadian Football League (when Ray is behind an offensive line which is capable of protecting him) and is a marvel to everybody in the league with his ability to keeping on ticking when he's forced to take a licking.

Ray is only 32. He was the top-rated quarterback at the front end of last season before the offensive line came completely unraveled and all four starting receivers were lost due to injury.

Tillman called it "having the courage to do what you think is right, short-term and long-term."

He said the Eskimos "get younger at the quarterback position and add the mobility dimension."

He also added "salary cap flex space" which, combined with mobility, is what it is all about."

He said "in 2007 the joke was that my house was going to be burned down" for allowing one-year-wonder Joseph to go to Toronto for big money.

He listed his previous successes.

There's been enough of them that maybe everybody should stop doubting Eric Tillman and concede his genius.

But on this one, trading Ricky Ray away, I doubt it.

I think Dec. 12, 2011, goes down as a dark day in Edmonton sports history.

And I consider Eric Tillnman trading Ricky Ray an outrage.

WHAT THEY'VE SAID ABOUT RICKY RAY

Former Saskatchewan head coach Kent Austin:

"How much time do you have? He's mature. He's composed. He really understands what it takes to win. He understands defences. He understands the offence they're running against the defences they play. He makes great decisions. He's accurate. He's tough. He's durable. He doesn't get hurt. He's got a knack to get out of trouble. He can break tackles. He's stronger than he looks. Is that enough for you?"

Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed:

"I think we're going to go as far as we're going to go on the basis of how Ricky Ray goes. Ricky's been and Ricky's proven. He's been our leader all year and his experience is our biggest asset. He has two Grey Cup championships under his belt. He's been in this position before. It's not foreign territory for him, as was indicative of the way he played Sunday in the Western semifinal. When we needed a drive, he put together a drive. When we needed big plays, he put together big plays. The man is proven and that gives us tremendous confidence in our football team."

Eskimos All-Star Receiver Fred Stamps:

"He's our captain. He's our leader. We all look up to him. The whole team knows Ricky Ray is going to show up and that if we all show up, too, we should win. As long as he gets some protection the sky is the limit for us. He's going to make the decisions for us and make the right ones. With him at quarterback, you know he's going to get the ball there. He's going to get the ball to you and it's not going to hurt your hands."

Eskimos' receiver Adarius Bowman:

"I heard a lot of other receivers in the league talk about Ricky Ray and that he throws the best corner route pass you've ever seen. I heard about how accurate he is and how he puts his receiver in the best position. You know what? All those things be true! He's professional. He's the first guy here and the last guy to leave after looking at film. I've learned every day from him.

I'm only 26. I couldn't be in a better place for me. Live and learn. I truly think I've got it now. It's all here for me. Now it's all up to me and how hard I play every day and up to me to make my play when it comes my way."

Eskimos Linebacker Greg Peach:

"Every year when we show up to training camp we think we have a chance because we have Ricky Ray."


Photos