November 5, 2012
Eskimos facing tough odds on cross-over
By TERRY JONES, QMI Agency
EDMONTON - With Eric Tillman fired and Len Rhodes replacing him on the hot seat, we now resume our normal programming on the cross-over Eastern Division semifinal between the Edmonton Eskimos and Ricky Ray and the Toronto Argos.
And the big question.
And that question isn't 'How do the Eskimos focus on the Argos with the firing of Tillman?'
It's 'How do you put such a shabby season behind you and move on to write a CFL post-season story for the ages worthy of celebrating the 100th Grey Cup?'
Or something like that.
The Eskimos have won 13 Grey Cups but never have they managed to win one with a losing record.
Only once, the last one in 2005, when they were 11-7, has the team done it by winning two playoff games and the Grey Cup on the road.
Edmonton has played in 23 Grey Cup games. Not once have the Eskimos even managed to get there with a regular-season record below .500.
Indeed, only once has the team -- which has managed to make the playoffs 54 times in their 64-year modern-day history -- ever made it with a losing record.
That was in 1966. Backed in big time. Ended up 6-9-1, winning just one of their last eight games.
This year, the Eskimos ended up 7-11. Won two of their last 10, dropping their last three in a row and all five of their games in September.
Back in 1966, the Eskimos lost the Western Semifinal 16-8 to a Winnipeg Blue Bomber team they'd lost to all three times in the regular season.
That's where this sets up different. They're playing the only team they didn't lose to this year.
The Eskimos are in the playoffs as a cross-over team for the second time in their history and the second time in the last five years.
In 2008, the Eskimos became the first Western cross-over team to win an Eastern Semifinal, beating the Bombers 29-21 in Winnipeg.
Of the six teams to have ventured East via the crossover route, none have managed to get to the Grey Cup. The B.C. Lions were the only other team to make it to the East Final -- in 2009 -- just to get slaughtered 56-18 by the Alouettes in Montreal. In 2006, the Eskimos lost the East Final 36-26 in Montreal, giving them the dubious honour of having come the closest.
No matter, if you look at the last 10 games or the last 64 seasons, there's nothing there to make you believe there's any hope for this Edmonton team to do anything but expire before being able to experience the celebrations of the 100th Grey Cup in Toronto.
But record-settling 130-tackle man and July, August and September Gibson's Finest Defensive Player of the Month winner J.C. Sherritt says ignore all that.
Just know one thing says Sherritt.
"We can't wait. When you play for this organization there is a daily reminder each day of the great players and great teams that have come before you.
"At the 48th annual dinner we all listened to Warren Moon and those guys tell us how they lost five in a row during a season and won the Grey Cup. It's all about getting hot at the right time.
"We all want to be part of that tradition. We know we've got a shot at that right now.
"We have guys coming back on defence now. Marcus Howard was back on the field for the last one and that really helped. And nine days between games is really going to help.
"We don't care who we are playing, we just want to get in. We can't wait to go play Toronto and you can sense it right now.
We're going into the playoffs with a lot more confidence than people probably believe," he said.
"With the way things played out, we felt like if we can get in, we can make a run at it. Once we found out we were in, people instantly started thinking Grey Cup."
It doesn't matter what a million Edmontonians may think of their chances. It's what 40 Eskimos think, says Sherritt.