Always a guy to pipe up in his playing days, Aaron Fiacconi did it again on Saturday night, three months into his retirement.
The former Edmonton Eskimos offensive lineman took to Twitter to voice his frustration after the team’s 39-15 loss to the Calgary Stampeders on Friday night.
“I owe so much to the esks as a franchise but this awful “management” of players has killed this team, zero confidence! Revolving door! JOKE!” he said in one of his post-game Tweets.
Almost 24 hours later, Fiacconi hadn’t cooled down.
“It’s sad to see. You can definitely say that,” he said of the team he retired from before the start of the 2012 training camp. The Eskimos have lost five straight games and are last in the Canadian Football League West Division with a 5-8 record.
The 32-year-old said that Eskimos general manager Eric Tillman is on the hot seat for taking a team that went 11-7 and played in the West Final a year ago and changing its look by trading quarterback Ricky Ray to the Toronto Argonauts in the off-season.
“I’ve never sat in the GM’s chair,” Fiacconi said. “I know that he is definitely going to be in the crosshairs for some of the decisions, and that was obviously the gamble he was willing to take when it came to trading away a cornerstone of your franchise.”
Fiacconi, who suited up with the Eskimos from 2007 to 2011, said continuity was the key to the team getting back on track.
“I think they definitely have the players and the coach in Kavis Reed to do that. I think he’s a great motivator,” Fiacconi said. “He just needs to stop second-guessing himself and take a stand and take his guys, believe in his guys, put his best on the field and run with it, win, lose or draw.
“Enough with this shuffling the deck, different quarterback every week, different offensive linemen combinations, different bunch of receivers, trading, bringing in an extra running back when you’ve got two stars in the making. Why are you doing this? What’s the motivation behind this? I don’t understand it.”
In addition to the Eskimos picking up Cory Boyd shortly before Jerome Messam returned from his National Football League stint with the Miami Dolphins — a move that crowded the backfield with Hugh Charles already having a fantastic season as the team’s starting running back — Fiacconi also had trouble wrapping his head around the acquisition of kicker Brody McKnight.
McKnight came to Edmonton on Sept. 12, in exchange for kicker Derek Schiavone and the Eskimos’ first- and fourth-round selections in the 2013 CFL draft. The move was spurred by an injury to punter Burke Dales. Grant Shaw was struggling with field goals upon McKnight’s arrival, having missed game-winners on Sept. 3 and Sept. 7 against Calgary.
“Trading your first-round pick for a kicker … what kind of confidence does that put in Grant Shaw now? You think fear is going to drive somebody and make him play better? It doesn’t work like that,” Fiacconi said.
“It doesn’t work that way. It makes you more tentative, it makes you more nervous, more scared. You don’t play free, you don’t play on the edge and that’s what Eskimo football is about, man, that’s what being a professional is about, is playing on the edge.
“When you’re doing that type of stuff, your revolving door at quarterback, what message is that sending the rest of your team? What message is that sending to your quarterback? What message is it sending to your offensive line? Your kicker, your receiving corps? What are you looking for? What are you trying to find?”
Fiacconi said something that’s been missing from the team for a number of years is coaches standing behind their players. He pointed to his offensive line coach in 2009 and 2010, Jeff Bleamer, as someone who did that.
“We had a coach that believed in us and he would go to war for us and he would stand up for us, regardless if we played a lights-out game or we didn’t play a really good game at all,” Fiacconi said. “He was that kind of guy. He believed in us and that got away from us, it definitely did.”
Admitting he still had a great emotional investment with the team, Fiacconi said that watching the Eskimos struggle in his absence this year has made retirement doubly hard as he’s moved forward in a career with engineering firm WorleyParsons.
“I can honestly say that it is hard to watch because I care a lot about that organization,” he said. “They’ve done a lot for me, I care a lot about the guys in the locker-room and I felt like a papa bear, in a sense (speaking out). I do miss them and I miss that part of it. That’s always going to be in every football player, I imagine.”
(Courtesy Edmonton Journal)