B.C. Lions general manager Ed Hervey isn’t one to mince words and he let out his true feelings regarding the decision to fire respected offensive line coach Bryan Chiu.
“The offensive line play going into the bye week and throughout the season has been a concern. We’ve moved different people around, we’ve moved different people in different spots and we’re still having a lot of the same issues,” Hervey said on TSN radio 1040 in Vancouver.
“We’re not talking about players who are first year players, we’re talking about guys who are all-star level players and guys who have multiple years experience playing in this league and over the course of the season were looking like they’ve never played this game before.”
Franchise quarterback Mike Reilly has been battered and beat up repeatedly since signing for a four-year $2.9 million contract with the Lions on February. The Lions have allowed a league-worst 43 sacks. That ultimately, in Hervey’s mind, cost Chiu his job.
“There’s too many hits being laid on the quarterback. I would have a much easier time looking at that if we were facing things that were exotic and new to the league, but it was a lot of simple things that defences were doing that were giving us problems,” Hervey said.
“Our priority one is to protect our quarterback, we wanted to make sure that we were able to do that. Something had to give. Coaching changes aren’t popular.”
B.C.’s GM cited a specific example of what he felt was wrong with the Lions’ blocking schemes under Chiu. Week 6 against Saskatchewan all-star defensive end Charleston Hughes had a field day, recording 10 tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles. Canadian David Foucault started at right tackle opposite Hughes for most of the game.
“You can argue in the Saskatchewan game Charleston Hughes going against Foucault at the tackle spot, you give the advantage to Charleston. But one would say: why is Foucault out there by himself?” Hervey asked.
“When you’re the offensive line coach, schematic-wise, you’re the key cog in what we do protection-wise and how you protect the quarterback, and right now we’re not doing it. The objective here is to keep Mike safe,” head coach DeVone Claybrooks said on TSN radio 1040 in Vancouver.
Chiu’s replacement is 44-year-old Kelly Bates, a retired offensive lineman who spent eight of 10 CFL seasons playing with the Lions. Bates has five years of CFL coaching experience, most recently as an offensive quality specialist with the Edmonton Eskimos.
“Ultimately, they’ll play more aggressive up front and reduce the amount of mental mistakes that we’ve seen over the course of the last few weeks,” Hervey said regarding the hiring of Bates to oversee the big boys up front.
B.C. has started 10 different offensive linemen so far in a litany of different combinations, including four at the centre position alone. Bates will be tasked with trying to figure out a lineup that works and find some way to protect Reilly.