Ed Hervey kept saying he didn't have a master plan for the Edmonton Eskimos now that he's the general manager.
But if you listened carefully to his in-coming address Monday, there were enough clues as to what the 39-year-old former CFL receiver wants for a franchise in need of serious renovations. Better communication, collaborative efforts, no more "sideshow" distractions were only a few of the things Hervey said he wanted to clean up in the team's front-office dealings.
According to insiders, those comments were aimed directly at how former GM Eric Tillman ran the Eskimos until his dismissal last month. While Hervey insisted he wasn't about "to kick dirt on anyone. That's not the Eskimos way;" he did acknowledge: "We've changed direction. We're going to do things right. What happened in the past, those days are over."
Hervey, who played eight seasons with the Eskimos before becoming a scout, spoke decisively about what he wants to see from a team that last season slumped to a 7-11 record and last place in the West Division. He plans to put a premium on stability. He insisted Kavis Reed would be back as head coach and not have to worry about all the personnel, operational and travel issues he had to deal with in 2012.
Reed had also applied for the GM's job. The team's selection committee determined he best served the Esks as head coach, while Hervey was viewed as the ideal behind-the-scenes strategist who embodied what the club needed.
"If you know Ed for five minutes, you know winning is everything," Eskimos president Len Rhodes said. "We didn't give him this job; he earned it."
Hervey's straight-ahead approach to revamping the Eskimos will begin on several fronts. He intends to modernize the team's scouting approach and expand its regions beyond select areas in the United States for bigger, more athletic players.
There are free agents to sign; Edmonton has 14, including all-star linebacker J.C. Sherritt, who is believed to have already agreed to a contract extension. At the top of the to-do list is securing a quarterback who can win. (To do that, the Eskimos may have to go the free-agent route and make a pitch for Mike Reilly, the B.C. Lions backup who could be on the market in February.)
Asked about the infamous trade that sent quarterback Ricky Ray to the Toronto Argonauts prior to the 2012 season – a deal made by Tillman after much internal debate – Hervey declined to go into specifics and made a point of not mentioning Ray by name.
"We will do everything in our power to find that guy [Ray's replacement], to make that guy the next guy. [Ray] is not coming back. It is time to move on and we will do that," said Hervey, who spoke highly of incumbent starter Matt Nichols. "Matt has tremendous potential, but he just had surgery [on a dislocated left ankle] and we have to wait and see on that. … Once Kavis and I decide on the guy we want, will make our pitch to get that guy. We're doing to do a through evaluation of all the quarterbacks, in-house or free agents."
Hervey was raised in Compton, Calif., and starred at the University of Southern California in track and football. After unsuccessful tryouts in the NFL, he signed with the Eskimos in 1999. He went on to win two Grey Cups and catch 476 passes for 6,715 yards and 43 touchdowns.
He retired in 2007. and began working as Edmonton's West Coast scout before becoming its chief scout. "I never grew up dreaming of being the Eskimos GM. I just wanted to play football and to win," he said.
Winning now has never been more imperative for Hervey. The Eskimos believe they have the right man to fix their problems.
The new GM believes: "We're no longer going to be viewed as a sideshow."