Campbell comes to his own defence

‘We’ve got to get our guys to tackle,’ says defensive co-ordinator

By Vicki Hall,
Edmonton Journal

EDMONTON – Rick Campbell has been sacked in the court of public opinion without speaking a word in his own defence.

So the Edmonton Eskimos defensive co-ordinator stepped off the line of scrimmage Tuesday and let his critics have it for uninformed attacks on his play- calling.

To be perfectly clear, Campbell understands why people are frustrated with the 2-5 Eskimos. He’s frustrated, too, and concedes much of the criticism is valid.

Just not all of it.

“We’re not getting it done, so we do deserve heat,” Campbell said before Tuesday’s practice. “That’s part of the deal. I knew it came with the job when I signed up.

“People in this town should get upset when the teams aren’t winning. But when I get judged, I want it to be on legitimate things.”

Campbell was ridiculed around the country last month for calling a zone blitz with four seconds left on the clock against Winnipeg. The ensuing 100-yard touchdown by Bombers slotback Milt Stegall was shown on highlight reels around North America.

Fast-forward to this past Friday with the Eskimos in Vancouver against the B.C. Lions. Campbell called a zone blitz, this time with the Lions facing second-and-29. Geroy Simon caught a three-yard pass and burned past four Edmonton defenders to the end zone for a 92-yard touchdown.

When it comes to the Stegall major, Campbell concedes he made a mistake by not putting more defenders back on that side of the field.

“It all comes back to the coaches,” he said. “We knew where he was going to throw the ball. We knew exactly what he was going to do.

“I should have put them in a better position. We still had two people back to make the play, but we should have had four. That’s what should have happened. We should have stacked the odds in our favour. That’s what we should have done. We paid the ultimate price. It couldn’t have been a worse play against us.”

But Simon? If the Eskimos actually corralled Simon the way they’re supposed to, the coach insists the B.C. receiver wouldn’t have made it near the first-down marker.

“Any coach or player watching the first part of the film would say, ‘They got him. That’s perfect,’ ” Campbell said.

“We get pressure on the quarterback. He throws the ball three yards underneath. And what happens? We just fail to tackle him.

“If you want to get on the coaches for anything, we’ve got to get our guys to tackle and make sure they’re positioning themselves correctly. But it’s got nothing to do with stupidity or anything like that.

“The only thing that upsets me — and it would upset anyone — is when people lump the Geroy Simon touchdown and the Milt Stegall touchdown together and say it’s the same thing and the same play.

“To be frank, that’s a bunch of B.S.”

Strong words, to be sure, from a coach who rarely says much publicly.

Campbell, 35, is in his eighth year on the Eskimos’ coaching staff. He took over as defensive co-ordinator last season and the Eskimos won the Grey Cup.

Before joining the Eskimos, Campbell worked for two seasons as an assistant with the University of Oregon Ducks.

But around Edmonton he’s still best known as the son of Hugh Campbell, the legendary Saskatchewan Roughriders receiver and chief executive officer of the Eskimos.

“I don’t understand why people always bring that up,” said linebacker Singor Mobley. “It doesn’t matter if he’s Hugh’s son or not. He produced a good defence last year and we were the No.1 defence in the league. So I don’t understand why people get upset because he’s Hugh’s son.”

Team president Rick LeLacheur gets it. He also heard charges of nepotism during his time with Western Moving and Storage, formerly owned by his grandfather and father.

“I’ve been through it in a family business,” LeLacheur said. “You’ve got to be twice as good as anybody else. And when you are twice as good, nobody comments about it. When something happens, they’re all over you.”

That’s certainly the case with Campbell, but he wants to stay in Edmonton and fight his way through this trying stretch.

“I understand it from the outside,” he said.

“If you don’t know me, you may think, ‘They hired Hugh’s son and he doesn’t know what he’s doing.’

“I know the players and the coaches respect the job that I do. If they thought I was just Hugh’s son and they just had to put up with me, then I wouldn’t be here.

“I wouldn’t have stayed for as long as I have.”