Eskimos fans long for better days

What a sad state of affairs it is at Commonwealth Stadium these days.

Fresh off their first win of the season and the long overdue firing of their general manager, the 1-5 Edmonton Eskimos returned to their losing ways this past weekend, jumping out to a 28-19 lead only to see that evaporate in a 29-28 loss to the surprising 4-2 Toronto Argonauts.

I had the misfortune of taking in Friday night’s tilt, thinking it would be the perfect opportunity to take my three-year-old son to his first ever football game.

Oops.

Thankfully the tickets we used to get through the turnstiles were free, or else I would have been standing outside the Eskimos front office, demanding a refund.

The game was awful, pure and simple.

As someone who manned the offensive line in high school, I could have given Ricky Ray more protection than the pocket he was afforded on Friday night.

Heck, even my son probably could have played with more heart, soul and desire to win than did the group of guys that were assembled on the artificial turf at Commonwealth.

Where did it all go wrong for this once proud franchise?

To find the point where the wheels started to come off the good bus Eskimo, we need to fire up the DeLorean and go back a few years.

After spending three seasons with Eskimos as offensive coordinator, Danny Maciocia took over the head coaching duties after Tom Higgins got his walking papers in 2004.

The rookie head coach led the Eskimos to the 2005 Grey Cup game in Regina, where they downed the Montreal Alouettes in a double overtime thriller, 38-35.

With many fans of the green and gold anticipating a repeat in 2006, Maciocia failed to meet expectations and the Eskimos finished out of the playoffs for the first time in 35 years with a 7-11 record.

Instead of being turfed right then and there, Maciocia was inexplicably given a promotion, with the Eskies brain trust adding Director of Football Operations to his list of duties.

With Maciocia now in charge of personnel decisions, the Eskimos fell even further in 2007, struggling their way to a 5-11-1 record and a second year without an invite to the post season.

That should have been enough to get the guy canned, right?

Wrong.

Maciocia was given another year at the helm, and I’ll give credit where credit is due.

The Montreal native managed to get the team back into the playoffs, thanks to the crossover format used by the CFL, where they downed Winnipeg before bowing out in the East final to the Alouettes.

Despite returning to the post season after a two year absence, the 2008 Eskimos never looked like a team that could de-throne the perennial Eastern powerhouse that hails from la belle province.

At the end of the 2008 season, Maciocia stepped down as head coach, handing the clipboard over to former Roughriders defensive coordinator Richie Hall, with Hall leading the Eskimos to a 9-9 record in 2009, and a first round playoff loss to Calgary.

Things were looking up for the Eskimos, who then opened the 2010 season with four straight losses, leading club president Rick LeLacheur to add unnecessary pressure to the team by saying heads would roll if the Eskimos didn’t beat B.C. in the fifth game of the season.

Edmonton got lucky and beat the Lions, but that wasn’t enough to keep the axe from falling on Maciocia.

And while I agree with the firing, I disagree with the timing, as dumping the general manager one third of the way through the season will not have the impact that many are expecting.

The only results that are gained from a mid-season firing of the general manager are aesthetic at best, as any real changes won’t happen until a new GM is chosen and given time to put their stamp on the team.

If LeLacheur and the Eskimos board of directors were serious about contending this season, Maciocia should have been turfed well before the year began, especially with Edmonton hosting the 2010 Grey Cup.

Actually, Maciocia should have been fired after his team missed the playoffs twice.

But he wasn’t, and Eskimos fans like me will have to endure another year like the previous four.

sports@big105.fm

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