EDMONTON – With the Edmonton Eskimos out of playoff contention before Saturday’s 33-24 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, quarterback Mike Reilly spent much of the week leading up to the game answering questions about what went wrong this season. The questions now are about what comes next.
Last in the West Division at 9-9 after a 5-2 start and with the 106th Grey Cup to be played at Commonwealth Stadium, the Eskimos have much to answer for from top to bottom, in particular about Reilly’s future with the club. The CFL’s reigning Most Outstanding Player is about to become a free agent.
“To be honest with you, in terms of my future and things like that, I mean, we’re less than 24 hours done with the last game of the season. I haven’t put any thought yet into what’s going to happen over the next couple of months,” Reilly said.
“There’s a lot of different things that go on, but I’ve loved my time in Edmonton to this point. It’s definitely been a privilege to play for the green and gold. Every time I get to put that jersey on I feel a tremendous amount of pride playing for this city, playing with the teammates we have in that locker-room, playing for the coaching staff, playing for this organization.”
Reilly, 33, who surpassed 5,000 yards passing for a third straight season, his sixth with the Eskimos, has options, including a potential return to the B.C. Lions, where former Eskimos general manager, Ed Hervey, is in charge.
“The main thing is winning championships. Again, there’s financials that are involved. We all play this game because we get paid and that’s how we support our families, of course. My biggest concern, and what I’ve always wanted to do from the time I started playing this game was win, win a lot and win a lot of championships. I believe we have pieces in place in place to do that here, but there are changes and tweaks that we have to make,” Reilly said.
“Again, it’s hard for me to really say. I was out on that field 24 hours ago trying to win a football game, so I haven’t given it enough thought yet, but, again, I have plenty of time to do that.”
It was Hervey who brought Reilly to Edmonton from B.C. in 2013 and made him the starter. They won a Grey Cup together in 2015. Hervey was fired by the Eskimos in April 2017 and replaced by Brock Sunderland. Hervey was hired by the Lions the following November.
“I’ve already started talking to Mike,” Sunderland said. “There’s been offers made. I know this – Mike is very well aware of what we think of him and how badly we would like him here.”
While there’s been speculation regarding the future of head coach and offensive coordinator Jason Maas, Sunderland denied that he might have “lost” the dressing room. Maas is signed through 2020 on an extension inked by Sunderland.
“I think he’s a head coach that the players like and love, and play hard for. I think yesterday was a very good indication of that, of players continuing to play at a full level for him,” Sunderland said.
“I don’t think at any stage he came close to losing this team. Again, we’re going through exit interviews, so if that’s not the case, that’s what this process is for.”
Maas is 31-23 through three seasons. He guided the Eskimos to the Western Final in 2017, losing to Calgary 32-28.
“I want to be back, obviously,” Maas said. “I signed on to be here, to be coach and want to see it through. Beyond that, I don’t want to worry about it. I’ll let the guys who are going to make those decisions, make them.”
But Maas understands that when a team misses the playoffs, questions come as part of the deal.
“That’s what happens in pro sports when you don’t live up to expectations as a team,” Maas said. “I get that. I signed up for pro sports. I understand that.”
Sunderland also denied reports that circulated last week that he had put out feelers to gauge interest from coaches around the league about replacing Maas, calling them “completely false” and “baseless.”