Tough call for Reed

Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed speaks to the media at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alta., Dec....

Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed speaks to the media at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alta., Dec. 12, 2011. (DAVID BLOOM/QMI Agency)

CON GRIWKOWSKY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:25 PM ET

EDMONTON - Somebody had to deliver the news.

And that somebody who had to call up Ricky Ray to tell him he's be traded to the Toronto Argos was Edmonton Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed.

"If I had to use one word it would be É disappointed," Reed said about Ray's reaction to the trade. "He's gone to three Grey Cups with this team and won two. It's one of those situations where with having longevity here and his tenure being as successful as it was, it is obviously a disappointment for him.

"He has the utmost respect for this community and this football team. I didn't expect him to be jovial about it. He was disappointed, as most of us would be.

"I have to emphasize he was professional about it, he was Ricky Ray about it. He expressed his emotions in a very brief way and understood the business side of it."

There's no question Reed's job just got a bit tougher without the leadership of a nine-year CFL veteran quarterback.

Reed did a sensational job in taking a last-place team to a spot in the CFL West final in 2011. Now, he'll have a bit more than half a year to figure out how he can put together a winning team without a proven quarterback.

Was a change in quarterback necessary in light of the fact that the 2011 Eskimos team was sixth in the league in scoring and sixth in the league in first downs?

Given the revolving door on the offensive line, can a more mobile quarterback add a dimension that was missing from Ray's dropback style?

With three offensive linemen rated in the CFL's top five draft prospect list, could the Esks build for the future by somehow nabbing two of them?

Those were some of the questions Reed and general manager Eric Tillman likely mulled over after the Argos pitched the deal.

As a coach, Reed initially balked at the deal.

"Given the person we're speaking about, at the time your first response is to say no," said Reed. "This is Ricky Ray. He's a franchise guy. He's a part of the brand that is the Edmonton Eskimos. You almost had to look at is as an offer you'd dismiss right away."

But the Argos were persistent over the last week, pitching a couple of more deals until they found the right combination.

"For me, as a coach, you always look at the big picture and see what's right for this locker room, this football team," said Reed. "Ricky is an integral part of this locker room, of this community, of this franchise as a whole.

"Obviously, it's a very difficult decision as a coach. It's losing a major part of your leadership core."

As much as Reed initially balked at the trade, he's a practical enough man to know he now has to play the hand he's been dealt.

"I'm not going to be Nostradamus and predict we're going to be a better football team," said Reed. "I believe the pieces that we're getting will, probably in the long term, make us a better football team. I believe the intention is for us to be better in the future."

Reed fully understands the implications the deal has and the emotional attachment Eskimos fans had with the long-term face of this franchise.

"This decision, obviously, is a very delicate one," said Reed. "It was an very tough football call. From a human perspective, extremely tough. Beyond words.

"I lost sleep a couple of night thinking this might be a possibility."

con.griwkowsky@sunmedia.ca


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