EXCLUSIVE: Ed Hervey breaks silence for first time since Eskimos firing

Jason Gregor hosts The Jason Gregor Show on TSN1260 in Edmonton weekdays from 2-6 p.m. Follow him on Twitter @JasonGregor.

It has been just over three months since Edmonton Eskimos President Len Rhodes dismissed Ed Hervey as General Manager. It was a surprising move considering Hervey had built a championship team. The Eskimos were 36-18 the past three seasons, made it to the divisional each of those seasons and won a Grey Cup in 2015.

When Rhodes announced his decision on April 7th, he said, “Winning is not enough, we have to do more than have a winning product on the field. Two major reasons drove this decision. First, both parties could not agree to contract extension terms. And secondly, there were differences in philosophy in the way we do business.”

Hervey didn’t make a statement or do interviews at the time, but last week I met him on a patio of a downtown restaurant to find out what he has been up to, his future plans and get his thoughts on being let go.

One week before Hervey was dismissed I ran into him in a parking lot. He was going to get a prescription from the pharmacy. He’d been diagnosed with pneumonia and he looked run down. When I met him last week on the patio he looked much healthier and was in great spirits.

“I’ve been spending quality time catching up with friends and family,” smiled Hervey. “My hands were full leading the Eskimos. I often worked 14 hour days seven days a week. I fell ill in late March and did not take a day off. I owed it to myself to take some time and rejuvenate and now I feel great,” said Hervey.

Hervey spent 18 seasons with the Eskimos as a player, scout and general manager. He won two Grey Cups as a player and one as GM. Joining the team in 1999 changed his life. He’s made Edmonton his home. Not being a part of the organization is odd for him, but Hervey stated change can be good and leads to new opportunities.

He was extremely proud to receive the GM title in 2013.

“I played eight amazing seasons in Edmonton. Then I took advantage of an opportunity to remain with the organization as scout. I worked hard preparing myself to be General Manager. I’ll admit I placed an incredible amount of pressure on myself to shift the culture by placing the focus back on team success, winning games and Grey Cups. I had a plan to bring together a department that won a Grey Cup title in three years or less and we met that goal, that was not only a plan, that is Eskimos Football,” said Hervey.

Hervey believes strongly in the Eskimos way. Some might think that is just a saying, but for Hervey it wasn’t.

“Over my 18 years with the Eskimos the two men I’ve learned the most from were Hugh Campbell and Rick LeLacheur. Hugh brought to me to Edmonton and as a player I was given the opportunity to observe his football acumen and leadership and he instilled within me the Eskimos Way. Rick and Danny Maciocia offered me my first position in football operations. I learned a great deal from Rick about the business side of the CFL and to this day we stay in touch and I could always pick up the phone and call him when I had questions,” explained Hervey.

Hervey’s main job was football operations. When he was hired in 2013 he inherited an organization in shambles. The Eskimos were terrible on the field and in disarray off the field. His main focus was changing the culture.

What was he most proud of during his tenure as GM?

“I have never been a person who pursued attention for individual accomplishments.  But obviously, being a leader for the coaches, players and staff who won the Grey Cup would be at the top of the list.  It was an honour to lead football operations and watch it advance into one of the most efficient operations in the CFL. I am also proud to have left the department in great shape with my friend head coach Jason Maas, his coaching staff and a great core of players,” said Hervey.

What did he learn about himself? How he is different now compared to the man who took the job in 2013? He laughed before responding.

“I’ve had many great experiences over the last few years. Before I took over as General Manager in 2013, I was naïve and overlooked the machinations that go on within an organization. I have a profound understanding of those machinations now and I have a gained a tremendous amount of experience that I will take into the next chapter of my career,” answered Hervey.

Does he have any regrets, is there anything he’d approach differently?

“I do have one regret. Not winning the Grey Cup in 2016. I could have done more to help our team win. Otherwise, I am pleased with my effort as GM of the Edmonton Eskimos. Our fans expected and anticipated competitive teams who could win the Grey Cup…. mission accomplished,” said Hervey.

I followed up and asked about the dressing room access. He paused, “No comment.”

In December, 2016 I was one of six media members who met with Hervey and Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Rose Mary Phillip, at the Eskimos office. We were told the dressing room would be re-opened to media in 2017. A source from the CFL head office confirmed the same was said during a league meeting in early December. I’ve always found it odd when Rhodes suggested fan, media and sponsor access was a reason to fire the GM, when in December the Eskimos told six reporters the room would be open. It never passed my smell test.

Hervey did speak passionately when I asked him about his staff.

“I would like to thank the hardworking employees of the Edmonton Eskimos, specifically those in Football Operations.  Thank them for all their sacrifices over the years. Without your care, hard work, late nights and early mornings, we would not have been able to meet our goals.  Please know that I have the highest respect for you all.  I will miss you.  As the saying goes, “Once an Eskimo Always an Eskimo,” said Hervey.

He also had a message to Edmonton and the fans.

“Thank you for adopting me into your community and for your eighteen years of support throughout my career with Eskimos. You have fostered my growth on-and-off the field. I am fortunate and eternally grateful to the fans of this wonderful city.

“Thank you all for giving me the opportunity and patience to build a championship football team.  I am humbled by all the passionate support and respect for my straight forward and honest approach in dealings with the team, league and community. I always heard you and your desires for the team. The staff, coaches and players worked tirelessly to exceed your wants and expectations for our team. Every decision I made was based on building winning football teams.”

What is next for Hervey?

He has had discussions with a few CFL teams, but for now he is enjoying a less hectic schedule. He hopes to return to football soon.

Jason Gregor hosts The Jason Gregor Show on TSN1260 in Edmonton weekdays from 2-6 p.m. Follow him on Twitter @JasonGregor.

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