Why Len Rhodes was wrong to fire Ed Hervey

When I received a text Friday morning that said, “Ed Hervey was fired,” I thought it was either a joke to get me riled up or the person texting me had been the victim of Facebook rumours. Those were the only two logical explanations I could come up with; the key word of this is “logic” – something this decision is severely lacking.

When Hervey came in as general manager of the Edmonton Eskimos, he was replacing the unpopular Eric Tillman. (That sound you just heard was the collective shudder of longtime Eskimos fans at the thought of the former GM who traded away quarterback Ricky Ray). It was the return of what longtime Eskimos fans know as BONE – Brotherhood of Nasty Eskimos. The day of the hiring was such an immediate change in culture and outlook that retired Edmonton Eskimo Jed Roberts walked into Hervey’s office, where they just sat and listened to The Beatles’ ‘Here Comes the Sun’ on repeat. It was a new start; it was a return to the culture that has long been sacred to the green and gold.

Hervey suffered through years of mismanagement, watching Tillman dismantle the scouting apparatus in favor of his three-ring binders. He waited patiently, he knew what the team needed to return to its empire days and he held on to that. At a fan event prior to the 2015 season, Hervey admitted to those in attendance that he knew what it was going to take to right the ship, but kept it from Tillman in order to protect the team and organization.

While unpopular with many mainstream media members, Hervey continued that protectiveness by limiting unnecessary gimmicks the media and league tried to introduce. From what I have been told, the live mic debacle stemmed from the Eskimos board of directors agreeing to the live mics, but not properly including football operations and the team in the decision. This left Hervey in a position to stand by his key players and head coach, Jason Maas, and not wear live mics during their game against Montreal.

This should have been our first sign that there was a serious disconnect between the suits and football operations.

The second major sign? Len Rhodes’ quote in his press conference, claiming that the Grey Cup isn’t enough. I guess stepping into a total circus, making the playoffs nearly every year and a Grey Cup win isn’t the mark of a great general manager. I guess having a team lose substantial personnel to questionable moves a province over, yet still making the West Final isn’t enough.

The lack of connection between the Eskimos and the community – lower attendance – has nothing to do with Hervey. To put blame on a man who lives up to “once an Eskimo, always an Eskimo” is ludicrous. It’s also short-sighted, as problems began long before Hervey came along and are issues that have nothing to do with the GM position.

A sarcastic #EdHerveysFault hashtag started on Twitter, touching on many of the issues that have created a gap between the organization and fan experience.

It’s not Hervey’s fault that the in-game experience is lacking. During a home game against B.C., the Eskimos defence came up big and had the crowd on their feet, the loudest I had heard all season. Instead of having the forethought to let the crowd noise roll, to continue with replays on the big screen, the game crew cut to a pre-produced non-football related video – death of crowd noise.

It’s not Hervey’s fault they had “social media night” in which absolutely nothing special happened.

It’s not Hervey’s fault that there have been fan unfriendly stretches of Thursday night games, combined with long gaps between home games.

It’s not Hervey’s fault that years ago, the Eskimos put up a steel black fence around the field, killing the accessibility feeling fans got to enjoy for decades prior.

It’s not Hervey’s fault the organization completely ignored the fans who adamantly and vocally opposed the hiring of Eric Tillman after his legal issues in Saskatchewan. Who cares if he was media-friendly?

What is Hervey’s fault?

A return of the tight-knit Eskimos culture, where players respect their GM and know he always does what is best for the team and the product on the field. As one current player told me, “Hervey had (my) back.” To this player, the situation is now “scary”.

In an effort to gain control, soothe his ego, and appease media, Rhodes has left the players in a vulnerable position by firing their well loved GM. As a lovely addition, it is just weeks before training camp. Great timing.

The issues Rhodes and the Eskimos blamed Hervey for have nothing to do with the general manager position, nor should they. A general manager should be responsible for putting together a team that is consistently competitive. Hervey did that.

The firing reeks of ego and a completely out of touch view of what is negatively impacting ticket sales and community connection.

– Allison Currie is an Edmonton-based writer, Producer, customer service expert and social media guru. Follow her on Twitter @AlleyDalley.

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