Eskimos coach Reed stays focused on task at hand
Questions about general manager role will wait until end of season
EDMONTON - If Kavis Reed is entertaining the idea of trying on the general manager title, it’s not something he’s going to discuss today, tomorrow, or any time between now and when the Edmonton Eskimos’ post-season run ends.
The head coach is fixated on Sunday’s Canadian Football League playoff showdown against the Toronto Argonauts.
“The contemplation is about making sure this team is prepared to play a very tough Toronto football team. If I, or anyone in this organization loses focus on that, our playoff exit will be very quick,” Reed said on Monday, a few days after Eric Tillman was relieved of his duties as the club’s GM. “I want to be a very good head coach this week against the Toronto Argonauts.”
Reed, who has spent much of this season acting as a buffer for his players, continued to do so in wake of the latest firestorm. He called his captains in on the weekend and told them that the focus this week would be on the game and not on the happenings off the field.
In short, he wanted to tell them that the sky was not falling.
“There’s never a good time for a situation like this. Never,” said Reed, who pointed out that Tillman gave him a chance to become a head coach. “(But) for us, football-operation-wise, the focus needs to be on playing the Toronto Argonauts in the eastern semifinal.
“My personal feelings aside, my personal time aside, it has be about this football team. I’m responsible for making certain we go far in the playoffs.
“We have to focus in on a very tough Toronto team. As well, we’ve gone through a lot this year, be it injuries, be it changes in terms of personnel. We’ve gone through a lot, but that locker-room, because of its character … was able to stay intact for the most part. Now we’ve achieved one goal and that is to be part of the post-season.”
The Argonauts, with Ricky Ray at quarterback, have a two-game win streak propelling them into the playoffs. The Eskimos were 2-0 in games against Toronto this season, but they are 2-8 in their last 10 games — not exactly the kind of momentum that commands much attention.
Not when one considers Edmonton was 7-11 and last in the West Division. The Eskimos gained entry into the post-season only because the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Hamilton Tiger-Cats were 6-12.
“The slate is wiped clean,” said Reed. “For us, this is a new season.
“What was accomplished in the regular season doesn’t exist anymore. What wasn’t accomplished doesn’t exist anymore. The train is moving forward now.
“It’s about being prepared to start fast, being prepared to execute at a high level for 60 minutes or whatever is necessary to advance.
“We played below .500 football, which is a disappointment for us, a tremendous disappointment. Mediocrity is not something we’ll ever be comfortable with or accept. That locker-room understood there are a lot of circumstances surrounding that.”
Having said that, Reed said that with the possible exception of the 17-1 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the fourth game of the season, he never questioned his team’s character. That’s why he said that the team doesn’t lack confidence now, even after three straight losses to close out the regular season.
“This is why you’re glad Kavis Reed is your head coach,” said linebacker J.C. Sherritt, who should be locked up with a long-term contract as soon as possible so he can officially become the face of the franchise. He went on to say that the dismissal of Tillman will not affect the room because Reed won’t let it, even when the team gets into Toronto and the questions keep coming.
“He knows how to handle these situations,” Sherritt continued. “He’s our leader. As long as he’s still our head coach, I don’t really care what happens anywhere else. He’s the guy who holds us together. We’ll go where he takes us.”
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