Former trading partners Ed Hervey and Wally Buono now together with Lions

Joshua Clipperton, Canadian Press

When the B.C. Lions were shopping unproven backup quarterback Mike Reilly on the trade market after the 2012 CFL season, Wally Buono got turned down by a number of fellow general managers as he searched for a deal.

One that agreed to listen was Ed Hervey, who was less than two months into his tenure with the Edmonton Eskimos.

“Ed stuck his neck on the line, made the trade and reaped the benefits of it,” Buono recalled. “(Reilly) helped that organization win a Grey Cup, and made that organization into a contender every year.”

Hervey and Buono will now be working together towards that same goal in 2018 after the Lions announced a major front-office shift Thursday aimed at turning around the club’s sagging fortunes.

Hervey, 44, is taking over GM duties from Buono, who has held the post since 2003. Buono will coach his final CFL season to help with the transition, while also continuing on as vice-president of football operations.

“If I was going to take an opportunity, it had to be the right one,” Hervey said during a press conference at the Lions’ suburban practice facility. “It had to be something that was good for me, and good for the people I was going to work with. I feel this is it.”

The move comes after a disappointing season that saw the Lions finish last in the CFL’s West Division at 7-11 with Buono in a dual coach and GM role. Despite the stumble in 2017, Hervey said Buono’s continued involvement was a selling point when considering the job.

“I don’t think I would have made the commitment to come here if he wasn’t committed to being the head coach,” said Hervey. “With Wally as vice-president, he gives me someone to work with (and) bounce things off of.

“I can learn from one of the greatest in the game. I believe coach Buono gives this team the best opportunity to be successful.”

Hervey’s addition aside, the Lions remain a club with lots of uncertainty as the sun sets on 67-year-old Buono’s tenure, while owner 76-year-old David Braley remains keen to sell the franchise despite committing to hold onto it until after the 2018 campaign.

Buono said it was his idea to approach Hervey, adding the pair had four meetings over the last month before the final decision was made by Braley over Grey Cup weekend. Buono actually wanted to hire the former Eskimos wide receiver as an assistant back in 2012 before Edmonton promoted him to GM from its scouting department.

Asked about the optics of a general manager hiring his replacement – one with the power to fire him if need be – Buono emphasized that Hervey has the final say on football decisions, and that the long shadow he casts as the CFL’s all-time leader with 273 coaching wins won’t disrupt the chain of command.

“Ed had complete say on who he wanted as his head coach,” said Buono. “I’m doing this because I want to coach. I want to coach a football team that I still believe in.”

Hervey was GM in Edmonton for three seasons from 2013 to 2016, building a Grey Cup-winning team in 2015 with Reilly at the helm, but was criticized for restricting media access to players. When he was fired in April, Eskimos president Len Rhodes cited a “philosophy in the way we do business” as part of the reason.

Hervey said Thursday the characterization that he obstructed access in Edmonton was “misleading.”

Buono retired as coach of the Lions after winning the 2011 Grey Cup to focus on front-office duties, but returned to the sidelines last season with B.C. heading in the wrong direction thanks to poor performances on the field and sagging attendance in the stands.

The Lions had a resurgent 2016 with a 12-6 record before winning their first playoff game since 2011, and there were big expectations coming into this summer. But after an encouraging 5-2 start, injuries and inconsistent play saw the team spiral to a 2-9 finish to miss the playoffs for the first time since 1996.

“I’ve always believed the GM and the head coach can be one person,” said Buono. “I’m not sure that today I believe that anymore. The reason is that complexity of the CFL in building your team has changed dramatically.”

Buono said that he’s staying on as vice-president to act as a buffer while Hervey and Braley get to know each other.

“David is comfortable dealing with me,” said Buono. “He has to now also start building a relationship with Ed.”

Hervey and Buono both sound keen to get started, eager to pick each other’s brains on football matters in hopes of rebuilding a once-proud franchise.

“Young people need to talk to grey-haired people,” said Buono, who cited Hugh Campbell and Cal Murphy as CFL legends he learned from as a young executive. “(Hervey) doesn’t know everything, just like I don’t know everything.

“We’re just talking about two football guys trying to get things right.”

And that’s something the Lions need now more than ever.


11 Comments on Former trading partners Ed Hervey and Wally Buono now together with Lions

  1. Jacques Barzun // November 30, 2017 at 11:15 pm //

    Keep in mind that Hervey couldn’t get along with the real architect of the Esks Grey Cup winner Chris Jones, and that he replaced Jones with by far the dumbest coach in the league: Jason Maas. With O’Reilly, the Esks should have won three straight cups now. But they have a big Maas on their hands instead.

  2. I just hope he does not take that maas to BC for 2019 when Wally steps down as HC.

  3. Same bad coaches again in 2018. oh yea. watch attendance continue to drop in B.C. They need to clean house, including Wally “Bonehead” Buono

  4. greenonions // December 1, 2017 at 1:42 am //

    Jacques you need to get your facts straight. Look at the 2013 Eskimo roster & the 2015 roster. Of the starting 24, 17 were there in 2014 when Jones arrived. Would you like me to list them for you? The key members on offence including the entire OL, Reilly, White, Bowman are already there. Sherritt, Willis, Sewell, Grymes, all All-Stars at that time were there. Jones did not build that team &, if you look at this year’s 12-6 club they’re still there 2 years after Jones left. Ladler, an All-Star, Zylstra – all Star, as well as Hazelton, Williams, Mitchell on offence, Cummings, Bowers on defence have all been added after Jones left. The pieces that came during Jones 2 years are almost all gone. To suggest that Jones was solely responsible even for those few still around is ridiculous. The GM makes the final decision on who stays on the club. Has Jones found anyone like Zylstra since he left? Or a guy who will start next year like Williams? There were only 7 starters on offence & defence that arrived in 2014, 2015 on that Grey Cup team. Know your facts. BTW who is O’Reilly?? And Jason Maas has ONLY had the top NET OFFENCE in the CFL 3 yrs running dating back to his 1 year as OC in Ottawa. As for 3 straight Grey Cups? Well Edmonton did that once in the 50’s & then topped it with 5 straight. What other team has done that? The chances of that happening with ANY team, especially now with the CAP are slim – hardly a sign of failure to not win 3 straight.

  5. pantsonfire // December 1, 2017 at 1:49 am //

    I wouldn’t worry too much about Maas in BC, Dave. But outside of Trestman I’ve seen pretty much every one blow their top at one time or another on the sideline. Rider fans seem to be eager to throw stones but somehow missed Jones running on the field throwing f-bombs at Gainey in the semi-final on one play & having to be directed back off the field by the officials. Does Maas blow his cool – yeah, so what? Ask Ray about that & he just smiles. Same with Reilly who had it about right – his take. If the cameras spent a game following the coaches on any team, you’re likely to see an explosion some time. It’s football. If they were in the “real world” they’d get fired. Football isn’t the real world. It’s emotional & you’re paid to win or you lose your job. Maas isn’t much different than any one else. Why do you think so many ex RedBlacks are on the Eskimo roster? That should tell you something.

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