As for the Eskimos, with whoever is going to be general manager and coach next year, it says here the fans, more than anybody, need to know what really happened. The way GM Eric Tillman presented it wasn’t remotely close to what happened, because whatever happens next in Edmonton is going to require a patience which wouldn’t be necessary if the Eskimos still had a championship-calibre quarterback like Ray.
It has become known that it was very heated in that room that day with Eric Tillman, Kavis Reed, outgoing CEO Rick LeLacheur and incoming CEO Len Rhodes.
It is believed that any of the explosive eruptions involving Reed on the sidelines during the season paled compared to his response in that room.
Knowing some of the details from other sources, your correspondent suggested to Reed by phone that it needs to come out now that the Eskimos season is over because it’s going to come out eventually.
It was also suggested it needs to come out now while Reed is contemplating his options: to remain as coach; take over as GM; become GM-coach; or move on.
And it needs to come out now before Ray wins Sunday to get back into the Grey Cup, if that should happen, and it then sounds like revisionist history.
Facing a non-confidence reaction from the fans who led the league in attendance, despite everything that happened in the turbulent season, if there was ever a time for transparency, this is it.
Reed agreed but with trepidation.
“I don’t want this to sound like I’m blabbing what went on at a meeting, because that isn’t professional. But the way Eric presented it at the time and during the season was that I was supportive of making that trade. I was not.”
Reed wouldn’t say it but other sources suggest that Tillman pressed the point the president shouldn’t tell the GM what to do about football operations. Timing wasn’t exactly ideal for either LeLacheur or Rhodes with one having one foot out the door and the other 11 days into the job to replace him.
“When we were in that room, Rick and Len listened. I said we’d probably be putting our franchise in danger for the next five to 10 years if we traded Ricky Ray away.
“At the time, I was not agreeable with the decision. Realizing Ricky is a franchise quarterback, it was very difficult to say I’m willing to start over with another quarterback.
“It is critically important for the franchise that we all agree stability being the most important thing. We must follow the change of command and make sure the franchise is intact. When a decision is made we must all appear of the same accord.”
It was Reed who called Ray.
“I called Ricky in California and told him that he was traded. He expressed his disappointment and I told him that he did everything right as an Edmonton Eskimo and that the franchise was indebted to him.”
He didn’t tell him that he was violently against the action.
“Eric was going to speak to the agent. I didn’t want say anything different than he was saying with the agent.”
Saturday Ray said he always kind of believed that was probably the way it went down.
“When I got the call from him, he did say something like ‘It wasn’t really my call.’ He didn’t say a lot, but I knew.”
Reed, I believe, stood up as much as he could. But in the end he was the coach and the job of the coach is to coach the players the general manager gives him to coach.
“It was a very difficult situation in the locker-room. Ricky was the centre piece of our football team. To see the king’s head cut off, I think a lot of our players wondered if they were safe and if the ship were rudderless. But they quickly got over it,” said Reed.
Reed, of course, spent the rest of the season massaging players feelings about the quarterback who was starting the next game, but good luck getting a quote from him on that.
Reed says he’s now hopeful he’s going to be wrong about that five to 10 years thing.
“All signs are that Matt Nichols could be the guy. It may not work out. None of us can say for sure. Are people patient enough to develop Matt Nichols? Nobody is going to trade us Travis Lulay ... or Ricky Ray.”
All Reed knows for sure right now is that he’s going to be cheering for Ricky Ray Sunday.
“Absolutely. I gave him a hug after the game. Ricky is a class act. In one year’s time of coaching him, I loved everything he’s about and how he approaches football.
“I’d like to see him have success in the post-season.”
Reed says he’s happy with the idea that Eskimo fans will likely be cheering for No. 15 this weekend, too.
“He deserves it.”
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