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Are The Edmonton Elks Close to Rock Bottom?

The Edmonton Elks are not a good football team. At 0-4 heading into Saskatchewan for a game against the Roughriders, the odds don’t look good that the Elks will come away with a victory on Thursday, July 6 at Mosaic Stadium. Their best chance for their first win of the season may come on Thursday, July 14th when they host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Commonwealth Stadium.

But the way they’re looking right now, not only will the Elks be fortunate to break their 19-game home losing streak, they might be lucky to win one game all season.

A Franchise That Turned It Around Before

Rather than continue to pick away at the obvious that this football team is not very good, it might be best to focus on history and how the franchise dug themselves out of a similar hole in the early 1970s. At least this might bring a sliver of hope to fans of the Green and Gold.

Edmonton only reached the Grey Cup only one time between 1960 and 1973. Similar to their NHL counterparts the Edmonton Oilers, the Eskimos as they were known back then lived through their own decade of darkness. It wasn’t until 1970 that fans could sense things were turning around. Ray Jauch replaced head coach Neill Armstrong and was named CFL Coach of the Year in his rookie year in 1970. Jauch led the Eskimos to a second place finish with a 9–7 record. Two years later, Jauch brought in Quarterbacks Bruce Lemmerman and Tom Wilkinson, and this signaled the true turnaround of the franchise. While the Eskimos lost the 1973 Grey Cup to Ottawa, Edmonton became a fixture in the final. During the 1970s, the Eskimos appeared in nine of 10 consecutive Grey Cup games and won six championships.

The 5-in-a-Row Grey Cup Championships from 1978 to 1982 was the true high watermark for the franchise. Led by Head Coach Hugh Campbell and a young Quarterback from the University of Washington named Warren Moon, the Eskimos not only dominated on the field, but off it as well.

During those years Commonwealth Stadium would be sold out or near capacity for almost every home game and Edmonton enjoyed its status as the flagship franchise of the CFL.

When Did it All Start Going South for the Green and Gold?

I thought the seeds for the franchise’s downward spiral were sown In December 2011. That’s when then Eskimo general manager Eric Tillman traded Ricky Ray to the Toronto Argonauts for quarterback Steven Jyles, kicker Grant Shaw and a 2012 first-round draft pick.

TORONTO ON SEPTEMBER 16 Kwaku Boateng 93 of the Edmonton Eskimos sacks Ricky Ray 15 of the Toronto Argonauts during a game at BMO field on September 16 2017 in Toronto Ontario Canada Toronto defeated Edmonton 36 24 Photo by John E SokolowskiGetty Images

Sure the team would win one more Grey Cup in 2015 led by Quarterback Michael Reilly and current Head Coach Chris Jones, but things were not all roses in Edmonton. One of the biggest blows to the franchise may have come when General Manager Ed Hervey was relieved of his duties in April of 2017. The team hasn’t really recovered from that loss.

So What Will It Take for Edmonton to Return to Prominence?

Its obvious that the Elks are not trending in a positive direction, and their schedule only gets tougher in the final weeks of July and into early August. That’s when they face the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Winnipeg on July 20, the BC Lions at home on July 29 and host the Bombers at Commonwealth on August 10. I’m hoping Head Coach Chris Jones can turn the fortunes of the team around. I’ve always liked his swagger, his defenses and his Football IQ. Here’s hoping he can find some magic somewhere and get the team into the win column, especially at home.

If you have some ideas on how to turn the Elks around, leave your ideas in the comment section. It’s highly unlikely that a name change back to the Eskimos will ever happen. But if you have some other solutions on how to reverse the team’s current fortunes, let er fly. I think the organization could use all the ideas and help it can get at this point.

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Dale Bochon Reporter
A fan of the CFL for over 4 decades, Dale Bochon's background is in marketing writing where he worked with the Edmonton Football Club, the Edmonton Oilers and the Edmonton Rush of the NLL.
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