EDMONTON — Not only is Jim Daley returning to the Canadian Football League coaching ranks, he is returning to the scene of the crime.
It was 1997 when his very average 8-10 Saskatchewan Roughriders stumbled into Edmonton for the Western final, having already shocked the 10-8 Calgary Stampeders 33-30 in the semifinal. Darn if the Riders didn’t topple the heavily favoured 12-6 Eskimos 31-30, only to lose the Grey Cup 47-23 in Edmonton to the Doug Flutie-led Toronto Argonauts, 15-3 in the regular season.
Now Daley returns to Edmonton as the Eskimos defensive co-ordinator, working under new head coach Richie Hall, who Daley first mentored — as the Riders’ defensive co-ordinator — in Saskatchewan in 1994.
“In all honesty, that was an amazing year,” said Daley, who also assumes the role of defensive line coach in Edmonton. “I’ll tell you one thing, people don’t appreciate how good that year was because we kept winning without any money,” Daley said of the financially strapped ’97 Riders.
Daley now takes on a new role with the more-than-financially stable Eskimos, returning to coaching after a three-year absence.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am to be an Eskimo,” said Daley, a former head coach in both Saskatchewan from 1996-98 and Winnipeg from 2004-05. In between he was the defensive co-ordinator in Regina from 1994-95 and an assistant in Ottawa in 1991 and Calgary in 2001. In 2007 (which stretched into 2008) he held the position of senior director of officiating with the CFL.
“I grew up in Ottawa, but I recall watching what I consider to be one of the flagships in this league,” he said of his new employer. “I’m really looking forward to working for the Eskimos and especially with someone who I consider to be a good friend in Richie Hall.” Daley, who lives in Calgary with his wife Diane — a teacher and basketball coach at John G. Diefenbaker High School — takes on a coaching position in Edmonton, where he was twice previously offered employment.
The 56-year-old, who has 30 years of coaching experience, was pitched a job in 1999 by Don Matthews and again two seasons ago by Danny Maciocia.
“The circumstances at the time just didn’t allow me to take them, but now the timing and opportunity couldn’t be better. I’m so excited about joining the organization. I’m just waiting for them to finalize my travel details, but if I don’t hear from them officially by Monday or Tuesday, I’ll walk up there,” he said with a laugh.
The addition of Daley means the end of an Eskimos era for any coach or football operations employee named Campbell. Rick Campbell, son of former head coach, general manager, president and CEO Hugh Campbell, leaves after 10 years spent with the Green and Gold. Rick Campbell was the longest-consecutive-serving coach in the history of the storied franchise. Bill MacDermott served 13 years, but in two seperate stints.
“It’s not a shock to me,” Campbell told The Journal. “I had some decent ideas this was going to happen.” “For me, professionally, it’s going to be a good thing to branch out and have others see what I have to offer,” said Campbell, who is reported to be mulling over a CFL job offer, likely in Winnipeg as a special teams coach.
Dan Kepley, who has spent eight years with the Eskimos, is now the current holder of the consecutive-years-coached title, at seven.
Kepley, who played under Hugh Campbell, was sad to see Rick go, but insists the Campbell name carries on.
“It’s kind of like thinking that (Vince) Lombardi has left Green Bay,” said Kepley, who remains on staff, along with Noel Thorpe, Rick Worman and Terry Eisler. “Lombardi never really left Green Bay and the Campbell name will never leave Edmonton. They may not be visible, but what Hugh and Rick Campbell have done for this organization is a tremendous credit, something that possibly wouldn’t have been done without them.” Thorpe not only retains his special teams co-ordinator status, but adds the title of assistant head coach. Worman remains as offensive co-ordinator and Eisler continues in his position as running backs coach.
Newcomers joining the staff are defensive backs coach Stacey Hairston, offensive line coach Jeff Bleamer and Jason Tucker, who retires from his playing career to take over the receivers.
Hairston is a former Riders teammate of coach Hall’s and has spent the past 12 seasons at his alma mater, Ohio Northern University as a defensive backs coach.
Hairston, a multi-sport collegiate star, also served as the head coach of the successful women’s golf team at ONU for the past seven years. He was a standout defensive back with Saskatchewan (1990-92) and the NFL’s Cleveland Browns (1993-94).
Bleamer is also a former NFLer who takes over the offensive line. He joins the Esks after spending the 2007-08 seasons as O-line coach with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and also worked at Colorado (1985 -86), the Citadel (1987-97), — where he worked with former CFL coach Charlie Taaffe — East Tennessee State (1997-2002) and Ohio State (2003-04).
“When I look at our staff from an all-round perspective, I’m excited and happy because we have a good mixture of experience, good mixture of personalties. Everyone is not like Richie Hall, everyone is not like Dan Kepley,” said Hall of the hirings.
“The common denominator is good people. … We can all do X’s and O’s, but if you’re not good people it’s hard to get the respect and trust from your players and it’s hard to communicate to the players what you’re trying to get on the football field.”