Eskimos quarterback picture comes into focus with trade

 

 
 
 
 
Matt Nichols #16 of the Edmonton Eskimos looks to pass in a game between the Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Eskimos in week 11 of the 2014 CFL season at Commonwealth Stadium on September 6, 2014 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
 
 

Matt Nichols #16 of the Edmonton Eskimos looks to pass in a game between the Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Eskimos in week 11 of the 2014 CFL season at Commonwealth Stadium on September 6, 2014 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Photograph by: BRENT JUST, GETTY IMAGES

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It’s human nature, Ed Hervey reminded people after the horde of cameras had passed and the recorders were shut off, to want more.

Hours after he’d traded Matt Nichols to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2017 Canadian Football League draft, Hervey admitted that he’d seen the little things, the signs that his backup quarterback was in need of change.

“He’s no fool,” Hervey said, standing under a hot sun in the south end zone at Commonwealth Stadium. “He sees Mike (Reilly) because he’s on his way back and where his place would be on this football team. I think he thought about that and understanding the situation, it made it best for him to accept it and move on.”

Nichols, 28, had spent the last five years with the Eskimos, joining the team’s practice roster late in 2010. He endured two season-ending injuries in that time: a horrendous ankle dislocation in the 2012 playoffs and a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the first quarter of the first preseason game of 2013.

When Reilly went down with a trio of knee injuries in Week 1, Nichols finally had the opportunity he waited his entire career for. It didn’t go the way he planned.

Nichols made 128 of 209 pass for 1,488 yards with eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions in seven starts for the Eskimos this year with a QB rating of 75.6. His play wasn’t often outright detrimental to his team’s cause, but the offence didn’t have the punch that it needed.

Rookie James Franklin lurked in the background from the first preseason game, providing that needed punch whenever he got into games. The 24-year-old’s ability is undeniable. Hervey began accepting that three weeks ago, he said, which would line up with the Eskimos’ 15-12 win over the Montreal Alouettes. Franklin came in as relief in that game and led the drive that produced Grant Shaw’s game-winning field goal.

With each game that Nichols was pulled, his frustration showed. There was the way he bolted from the Eskimos’ sideline at the end of the game when Franklin led the team to a win over the Bombers on July 25. His body language in Montreal grew worse as drive after drive failed, be it through dropped passes, fumbles run back for touchdowns or interceptions.  When Franklin got the start last week against the Toronto Argonauts, Reilly interacted more on the sideline with Franklin than Nichols.

“Thinking forward and knowing the situation that we’re in, knowing that Mike’s health was evident and to prevent a logjam at our quarterback situation (the trade was made). As well, you don’t want to have a disgruntled player,” Hervey said.

“That’s not to say (Nichols) was. He’s been a true professional for us for the entire time here, but understanding the scope he’s at a point where he’s tasted some playing time and there was an opportunity for him with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.”

Hervey went through something similar with Fred Stamps last year when his role in the offence changed. Nichols has seen the good and the bad of the Eskimos over the last five years and played behind them all. There was Ricky Ray, Steven Jyles, Kerry Joseph and eventually Reilly. Jonathan Crompton left and landed as a starter in Montreal. Then Franklin came in this year and bumped him down the ladder. His frustration is understandable.

“He was not upset,” Hervey said of Nichols’ reaction to the trade. “I’ve known him for a long time and I explained to him that … ‘This move for you personally, is a good thing.’ I think there was some relief, just knowing the situation.”

Nichols tweeted a farewell to the Eskimos on Wednesday afternoon.

“Thank you Ed Hervey and @EdmontonEsks for the last 6yrs. Going to miss my teammates, but looking forward to a fresh start!” he wrote, adding a Go Bombers hashtag.

Bombers coach Mike O’Shea said Nichols would not play on Sunday against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, but Nichols goes into a situation where there’s opportunity. For the Eskimos, there is clarity at the QB spot. Reilly will come off of the six-game injured list and will start practising with his teammates on Thursday, his return maybe two to three weeks away.

Franklin will start on Sunday for the Labour Day Classic against the Calgary Stampeders, but Reilly will be dressed and on the field.

“To have Mike there on the sidelines, dressed in uniform is a very good insurance policy if needed,” Hervey said.

coleary@edmontonjournal.com

Twitter.com/olearychris

 
 
 
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Matt Nichols #16 of the Edmonton Eskimos looks to pass in a game between the Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Eskimos in week 11 of the 2014 CFL season at Commonwealth Stadium on September 6, 2014 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
 

Matt Nichols #16 of the Edmonton Eskimos looks to pass in a game between the Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Eskimos in week 11 of the 2014 CFL season at Commonwealth Stadium on September 6, 2014 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Photograph by: BRENT JUST, GETTY IMAGES

 
Matt Nichols #16 of the Edmonton Eskimos looks to pass in a game between the Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Eskimos in week 11 of the 2014 CFL season at Commonwealth Stadium on September 6, 2014 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Matt Nichols is tackled by Hamilton Tiger Cats defensive lineman Ted Laurent during Friday’s Canadian Football League game at Commonwealth Stadium.
Edmonton Eskimos rookie quarterback James Franklin was more effective than starter Matt Nichols during Friday’s Canadian Football League game against the Hamilton Tiger Cats at Commonwealth Stadium.
Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Matt Nichols is tackled by Hamilton Tiger Cats Ted Laurent during Canadian Football League game action in Edmonton on August 21, 2015.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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