The strange case of who calls the plays for the Edmonton Eskimos is quickly spiralling into an issue of who calls the shots.
One day after general manager Ed Hervey publicly guaranteed that offensive co-ordinator Doug Sams was done calling plays, Sams announced Wednesday he will still be the one sending the signals to quarterback Mike Reilly when Edmonton hosts the Calgary Stampeders on Friday.
“(It’s) business as usual,” Sams told reporters after the Eskimos completed practice under the sticky heat and hot sun at Commonwealth Stadium. “Nothing’s changed, guys.”
So Sams was asked why Hervey announced Tuesday a change was coming?
“I don’t know,” Sams said. “You’d have to ask him.
“I don’t have an opinion or a comment.”
On Tuesday Hervey, the former Eskimos wide receiver in his first year as GM, was adamant Sams was out as play caller.
“I can guarantee you that the current person who is making the calls (Sams) will have a limited role in calling them,” Hervey said. “I’ve been very disappointed with some of the play-calling at critical times especially on the offensive side.
“That has been addressed last night. It will be addressed following this press conference. I assure you we will see a different offence in how the game is called.”
Hervey promised the gameplan will see more straight-ahead, smashmouth football.
“We will be very simple in how we do things,” Hervey said. “We’re not going to spend a lot of time trying to create different things.”
But on Wednesday, Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed refused to say who would be making the calls Friday night. On Monday, Edmonton scored 27 fourth-quarter points to erase a 37-7 deficit, only to lose a heart-breaking 37-34 decision.
“Being that it’s a short week, we want to make certain we keep as much as close to the vest as possible,” said Reed. “We’re still sorting through Calgary.”
Reed hedged, however, when asked if he will eventually change the play-calling as per Hervey’s directive.
“Your general manager has told you there will be change in play-calling. Will there be a change in play calling?” Reed was asked.
“We have not yet discussed all the details and semantics about what is going to happen Friday night,” Reed responded. “I’m not trying to be adversarial or difficult.
“It is purely about making certain this football team is properly communicated to so that we are in the best possible opportunity to win the game Friday.”
Hervey’s critical remarks were not limited to the play-calling. He also said he wants the team to run straight ahead in short-yardage situations and the defence to attack more and react less.
He also ordered the benching of underperforming offensive lineman Simeon Rottier, an Alberta native. Reilly was sacked seven times Monday and has been hit hard and often this season.
Hervey singled out Rottier, the veteran right guard, as the main culprit and announced Rottier won’t start Friday. Hervey then said he’d be happy if Rottier never played another game this year.
Rottier practised with the team Wednesday. Hervey watched most of the workout from the sidelines but left before it ended.
Rottier said he’s not happy with his performance, either, but will do whatever is necessary to win.
“You’ve still got to be professional and show up to work every day,” he said. “It sucks for me to be talking about this right now because I should be playing better.”
Hervey said Tuesday he was not concerned if by stepping into Reed’s areas of responsibility he was undercutting Reed’s authority or the coach’s ability to lead the locker room. In Hervey’s mind, he’s simply doing what needs to be done.
Hervey said Reed’s job, and those of the other Eskimos coaches, would be evaluated at season’s end.
Reed was asked Wednesday, given the events of the past 24 hours, whether he would even want to return in 2014.
He declined to answer but did deliver his personal thoughts on leadership.
“Leadership is about not being at the centre of attention, but doing what is right for the collective. And that’s what I’m going to focus on,” he said.
Reed also made it clear how he would handle this controversy and future ones.
“I’m going to do what’s right for this franchise,” he said. “When I came here in December 2010 I said we’re going to do things the Edmonton Eskimo way.
“The way I see it as an Edmonton Eskimo, we’re going to handle it in-house. I’m not going to pronounce anything in the media.”