Being a former quarterback, Eskimos head coach Jason Maas sensed the inquiry was coming — he just didn’t know when.
Upon arrival Maas had a quick response.
“I don’t care about my future, so I’d prefer the question not to be answered if you ask me,” Maas said.
After answering one more reporter, Maas’ media availability session was finished and the man walked with a purpose out of the room. Emotions were running high as Edmonton’s season had come to an abrupt end in the Eastern Final at Tim Hortons Field.
Since Maas was hired by then-general manager Ed Hervey in December 2015, the Esks have reached division finals in three of the four seasons the 43-year-old has been the bench boss. Since a 12-6 record in 2017 Edmonton’s record went the other way, 9-9 in 2018 while missing the playoffs and 8-10 secured a crossover playoff spot during 2019.
Brock Sunderland was hired as the new GM in April 2017 and he’s gone on record stating Maas would have been his head coach had he been able to hire his own. There was a familiarity between two men were as they were employed by the Redblacks in 2015 when Ottawa reached the Grey Cup, but ironically lost to the Eskimos.
Maas has a 39-33 win-loss record in a rough and tumble West Division plus a 3-3 post-season mark. Inside Edmonton’s locker room, the players back Maas and played hard all the way through. The leaders support Maas, whose contract runs through the 2020 season, wholeheartedly.
“Anybody that’s followed our team this year knows how I feel about Jason Maas and that’s unwavering. I think he’s a tremendous head coach,” quarterback Trevor Harris said.
“They missed the playoffs last year, but every other year he’s been in the minimum of the finals every year as a head coach.”
Harris signed a two-year contract worth $1.1 million in February and Maas played a large role. Each man is ultra competitive and share a passion for football. Play caller and trigger man built a quick rapport as Harris led the league in passing yards and touchdowns prior to his throwing arm injury. He was a Most Outstanding Player candidate and still finished the season second in yards through the air league-wide.
“You succeed as a team because of Jason Maas, you succeed as individuals because of Jason Maas. That guy has your back and I love him,” Harris said.
Even though Harris feels some type of way about Maas, after Marcel Bellefeuille was hired by the Eskimos as a scout in August there was rampant speculation among many people around the league he was the head coach in waiting. The former CFL head coach has always been a coach.
The 53-year-old was the head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats from 2008-2011, guiding the team to a 27-35 record, but just 1-3 in the playoffs. Bellefeuille has since been with two CFL teams, serving as the offensive coordinator in Winnipeg (2013-2015) and the receivers coach in B.C. (2016-2017).
The Ottawa native spent the 2018 season as the offensive coordinator at Queen’s University, his first USports position since he was the head coach of the Ottawa Gee-Gees (1998-2000). During the 2000 season, Bellefeuille led the Gee-Gees to a Vanier Cup victory.
Perhaps Maas sensed change was afoot. Rumours were fast and furious regarding Maas being replaced during Edmonton’s bye week in September following back-to-back defeats at the hands of Alberta rival Calgary. Ultimately Maas completed the season, but the future remains uncertain.
If Maas hit the open market multiple franchises would be calling quickly.