When it comes to demanding that the Edmonton Eskimos play with more discipline, head coach Jason Maas says setting the example starts with him. He admitted this week that’s too often been a case of do as I say, not as I do.
With the Eskimos hosting the Montreal Alouettes Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium and his team the worst in the CFL in penalties and penalty yards, Maas, known for his competitive fire as a player and tirades on the sidelines as a coach, is vowing to clean up his act.
“I think we’re just getting to the point now where we need to be better,” Maas said. “There’s no one in the organization that’s more accountable than me as far as what the product on the field is.
“At the end of the day, if we’re not disciplined enough and I look at myself . . . I’ve had penalties myself in games over the past three years and it’s not good enough. I shouldn’t have any. If I want to be a better example for our players, then it starts with me.”
Flagged for 14 penalties and 142 yards in a 31-23 loss to B.C. last weekend, the Eskimos have been called for 84 penalties and 895 yards through eight games.
Notably this season, but certainly not a one-off, Maas slammed a Gatorade jug to the turf on the sidelines Aug. 2 during a 26-19 win over Saskatchewan.
“This wasn’t a threat,” Maas said. “It wasn’t coming from above my ahead or anything like that to tell me to say that. It’s just something I observed, have been thinking about and have wanted to get across to my players.
“This is a discipline challenge to all of us. Can we be better? I’ve said it before, when you challenge athletes and you challenge competitive people, they want a change and they want a change for the better. They understand what’s holding us back, what’s not making us a championship calibre team.
“We’ve won a lot of games here the last two years. We have yet to win a championship. I think, if anything, it’s going to help us get to that end goal. It’s going to just make us a better football team if we can become more disciplined.”
In Maas’ first two seasons as coach, the Eskimos were the second-most penalized team in the league with 158 penalties for 1,484 yards and 206 infractions for 1,644 yards.
“For us, it just goes to show he’s a coach who is going to stand up for us,” centre Justin Sorensen said. “If he says it starts with him, then it starts him and it trickles down to us.
“He believes that if he doesn’t get as mad on the sidelines as he sometimes does, that’ll help us control our emotions, too. If we can all look at him seeing him control his emotions, we should be able to do the same ourselves.”
In the loss to B.C., the Eskimos blew a 20-10 halftime lead as the Lions ran off 18 straight points. While Mike Reilly threw for 302 yards and two touchdowns, he had two interceptions. Like Maas, Reilly is as competitive as it gets. He said he played like “crap” after the loss.
“It’s another way to try to wake the guys up to the importance of it for sure,” Reilly said of Maas vowing to be more controlled. “It’s something that’s been on the front of our minds for however many weeks, probably eight or nine weeks now.
“Clearly, what we’ve been doing up to this point hasn’t had the effect that we want. This is another way to try to get that across.
“Hopefully, it works. We’ll see. Proof will be in the pudding on game day.”
It can be a fine line between being an emotional leader and taking it over the top.
“My passion, my fire, the things I do on the sidelines that make me who I am, that ain’t changing,” Maas said. “It’s just I understand the actions on top of that that create those problems. (They) just aren’t going to happen.”