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Around the CFL: September 7, 2006

<p>The Esks, 3-7 and wallowing in the cellar of the Canadian Football League's West Division, entertain the Calgary Stampeders in this Friday night Battle of Alberta. The Stamps intend to pick up from where they left off on Labour Day and hammer nails into Edmonton's coffin.</p>

Another loss by the Edmonton Eskimos Friday night virtually guarantees:




  • The firing of Danny Maciocia as their head coach;



  • The end of the team's 34-year run in the playoffs;




  • Hugh Campbell's dismissal as their CEO.



The Esks, 3-7 and wallowing in the cellar of the Canadian Football League's West Division, entertain the Calgary Stampeders in this Friday night Battle of Alberta. The Stamps intend to pick up from where they left off on Labour Day and hammer nails into Edmonton's coffin.


The Stamps made the Esks look downright foolish in Calgary on Labour Day, recording a 44-23 slaughter, and it's not like they suddenly have sympathy now for their provincial counterparts.



Rahim Abdullah, the Stamps' talented defensive end and a former Eskimo, made no attempts to camouflage just how badly he and his teammates would like to bury Edmonton in this rematch.


"It would be a devastating blow to (the Esks)," Abdullah said. "It wouldn't go down well with the players, the organization, the front office and definitely not with the fans.


"We don't want to miss an opportunity to put Edmonton out. If you miss that, it's a huge mistake because, if you see them again in the playoffs, if they get their attitude back to being the old Eskimos, they can go out and beat you and all you have left are 'what ifs.' "


Maciocia, who only last season led the Esks to the Grey Cup title as a rookie head coach, has lost the respect of many of his players, according to a team member.


"We call him Ma-choke-a or Coach Choke behind his back," the Edmonton player told me. "He chokes all the time. He makes bad decisions. He's lost the locker room. Anybody who's honest in our locker room would tell you that."


Maciocia has offended the Esks on a regular basis this season, the player told me, because of the way he fines players.


"He takes our money all the time because he says he's fining us for mistakes we made," the player said. "Then, we were asking him to explain the mistakes. And he couldn't. So we just get money taken away, and we don't even know why. It's a joke."


The Eskimos' president has gone on record as saying that Macioica is safe in his job for this year, but the ultimate decision is supposed to be made by Campbell, the club's CEO, and sources tell me the club's board of directors will be unloading Campbell, too, if the team doesn't make the playoffs.


Some of the directors are unhappy that Campbell has been spending too much time away from the Esks' troubles, at his cabin in Idaho.


If the Esks lose against Calgary, it all but mathematically ensures the end of their playoff run of 34 consecutive years -- a record in North American professional sports.





Quarterback Jason Maas got away from the woes in Edmonton because he was traded to another team after last season's Grey Cup championship.


Problem is, that other team was Hamilton, where the Pussy-Cats may just be the worst team in CFL history. They're a mind-boggling 2-10.


Maas is on the trading block, but no other club in the CFL wants to touch him, or his bulky contract, at this point. He has been pulled from three consecutive games and has thrown eight interceptions (and only one touchdown pass) in his past four games.


With the faces he's been making on the field in the past month, he could be the poster boy for the Canadian Misery Society (if there was such a thing).





And so what has new Hamilton general manager Marcel Desjardins come up with to help the lamentable Pussy-Cats?


Well, he's decided that fans will no longer be able to watch the team practice.


Um, two questions:




  1. What the hell will that accomplish?



  2. Who the hell wants to watch the Pussy-Cats practice?





Don Matthews is 0-4 since signing a contract extension as head coach of the Montreal Alouettes.


And his team has been outscored 147-66 in those four games.


And so there are rumblings that, despite the extension, club owner Robert Wetenhall will eat the contract and find a new head coach if the Als don't bounce back and finish the season strongly.





Some of the players in Montreal are blaming the departure of Doug Berry as their offensive co-ordinator for their lack of offensive production.


Berry is the rookie head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who are having serious scoring problems themselves.


As a source close to the Bombers told me: "This team couldn't score in a women's prison with a handful of pardons."





Bombers general manager Brendan Taman can't understand why there have been so many blowouts and one-sided games in the CFL this season.


Speaking Thursday on The Tom and Joe Show with Scott Taylor on CITY-FM, Taman suggested that part of the reason for so many bad outings has been injuries to quarterbacks. Then he paused and asked: "But what do you say about Montreal? They have all their guys and they haven't been very good the last four weeks."


With increased rosters and increased salary caps this season -- and with the demise of the Ottawa Renegades -- Taman figured there would have been more parity in the CFL.


"But the biggest suprirse to me is that Hamilton team," Taman said. "I don't get that one. That's a very good football team (on paper). There are a dozen guys I'd like on that team right now. I just don't get that one."





Speaking of GMs, Eric Tillman hasn't lost yet as the GM of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, but he's not getting any credit from the coaches or players in his organization.


In fact, head coach Danny Barrett has gone on record as crediting Tillman's predecessor, Roy Shivers.


Shivers was fired before Tillman took over, but the Riders' three-game win streak came after a profanity-laced address to the team by Shivers.


"Roy stood up on the table and challenged us to step up our game," Barrett said. "Since then, we've responded accordingly."





Hamilton's Terry Vaughn, who earlier this season passed Darren Flutie as the CFL's receptions leader with 973, needs eight catches to reach the remarkable 1,000 plateau. . .The Winnipeg Sun's Kirk Penton figured out that the Bombers are 3-1 this season against backup quarterbacks and 2-5 against starters... The West is best, by the way. Western teams are 10-5 against Eastern teams this year. The Esks, on the other hand, are 0-3 against Eastern teams. . .The B.C. Lions are 8-3, and they are 5-0 when scoring a touchdown on a defensive play.





The Vancouver Province's Lowell Ullrich points out that George Martin, who handles the Lions' team flights, was standing on the sideline directly next to defensive co-ordinator Dave Ritchie during a game in Montreal last week.


A Lions' source told Ullrich that Martin was acting as a human shield, blocking the Als' view of Ritchie as he flashed in defensive signals.


The Lions are a step above other teams, clearly, because they're so resourceful. In Montreal, teams share the same sidelines, so why not use a body as a human shield?


Mind you, I don't understand why Lions owner David Braley has taken it upon himself to be on his team's sidelines every game. The man tends to stand there, arms folded, with a smug look on his face, and he usually looks like he's in desperate need of a chair.


Head coach Wally Buono abhors owners' interference -- that's why he couldn't get along with the Stampeders a few years ago. I simply can't imagine why he tolerates Braley on the sidelines these days.





Jon Ryan, the Regina native who set punting records with the Bombers last season, has beaten out B.J. Sander and will be the Green Bay Packers' punter when the National Football League season opens this week.


Ryan was one of only two former CFLers to crack an NFL squad this season. The other was Rashad Jeanty, a defensive lineman who was with the Eskimos. Jeanty made the Cincinnati Bengals' team.


Sander, incidentally, received a $583,625 US signing bonus when he joined the Packers as a high draft choice in 2004. Ryan received a $35,000 bonus when he signed with the Pack as a free agent last January.





Oh, and speaking of the NFL, all this talk about a team coming to Toronto is sheer folly.


It's a silly dream that recurs every few years. It may come to fruition some day, sure, but not in the next few decades.


See, NFL executives have too many U.S. cities to satisfy first. And one of them is Los Angeles, the second-largest city in their country.


And, speaking of the NFL, isn't it time for Jesse Lumsden to give up his NFL hopes? He's been cut by the Seattle Seahawks and the Washington Redskins, and the Pussy-Cats are willing and able to grant him plenty of playing time.


Swallow your pride Jesse. Humble yourself with a smaller contract, and be the good pro that you can be -- in the CFL.





And another thing:



Damon Allen is the CFL's leading passer, and the leading passer in the history of pro football, but he is in no way being considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.


Nor should he be.


If he gets in, then what about Doug Flutie?


And what about all those Arena Football League players who have set records and distinguished themselves in their league?


And what about the Football Europe superstars?


C'mon, let's face it. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is for NFLers. Period. End of argument.





Message from Marty York:

After about three decades of covering the CFL in newspapers, magazines, on national television and on radio, the folks who run Metro newspapers have given me the opportunity to report on the league in a new and efficient way -- online, right here at www.metronews.ca. Here, I will have the space and freedom to cover the league the way that will best serve you. My reports will be updated at least twice a week and will include information you're not likely to find elsewhere. I will also give you my weekly CFL picks. And I welcome email from CFL fans -- send them to marty.york@metronews.ca. I'll publish some from time to time. I'm very excited about this venture, and I hope you will be, too.

 
 
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