Eskimos head coach Maas deflects heat for first-down field-goal call
His Edmonton Eskimos might have been off last week, but the chatter never seems to rest when it comes to armchair coaches second-guessing a Jason Maas field-goal decision.
The Eskimos were trailing by 10 points with a little more than two minutes remaining in Thursday’s 28-21 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers when the head coach elected to take a quick three points as soon as Greg Ellingson got them into field-goal range with a 22-yard catch.
It set up a first-down field goal from 33 yards out by Edmonton kicker Sean Whyte, who went seven-for-seven between the uprights.
While the decision left some fans on social media clamouring for the missed opportunity at scoring more points on a night when the Eskimos were shut out of the end zone, Maas’s gambit paid off, electing a deep kickoff before his defence forced a two-and-out.
But having things go according to plan didn’t stop some second-guessing the strategy in social-media spheres.
“Well, we needed two scores, there were two minutes to go in the game, so to me you’re wasting time, particularly when you want to have an opportunity to pin a team deep with a defence that you know can get a stop,” Maas said at Commonwealth Stadium following Sunday’s practice.
“You give yourself a better opportunity (to score the tying touchdown) on offence if you have more time and better field position. So that’s what we’d decided to do and it worked. We just didn’t finish on offence to make it to where we could get a win out of it, but obviously you can see that the strategy does work. It’s just a matter of calling it and believing in it.
“As a person that’s making tough decisions, you have to believe in what you call, and when you do that, you’ve got to own it. That’s what we do.”
Of course, he opened the door to such criticism back in the 2017 West Division final, when a field-goal decision didn’t turn out nearly as well.
Trailing 32-25 to the Calgary Stampeders with two minutes left, Maas made the curious call to kick a 20-yard field goal on third-and-four. The Eskimos never got the ball back for a chance at the go-ahead touchdown, instead losing by those remaining four points.
This time, it was a different story. While you can’t get to seven by threes, 10 points is 10 points whether you score the field goal or the touchdown first.
“Two scores is two scores, it doesn’t matter when you get them or how you get them,” Maas said. “There’s different ways of doing it, obviously, but you can’t say that you can’t do it that way and have it work.”
And, considering an Eskimos defence that is only surrendering 237 yards of net offence per game — everyone else is over 320 yards — came up with a forced fumble a series after that clutch two-and-out, it’s not much of a stretch to think Maas will continue to call offensive plays when in a crunch this season like defensive co-ordinator Phillip Lolley has his back.
“At the end of the day, that’s just what we decided to do,” Maas said. “And, again, we own every decision here. Particularly me, when I have to make those decisions, I’ll own it and say it how it is.”
While you can’t exactly compare the two different field-goal scenarios from the end of those two games, it certainly didn’t stop his critics from trying last week.
“Everyone has an opinion,” Maas said. “And everyone generally has an opinion after the fact, which is very easy to do. But that’s not what coaches can do, so you can’t take things back.
“You just live with your decisions and feel good about them, and then work through them.”
In and out: Christophe Mulumba-Tshimanga, who started the season on the six-game injured list, has been moved to the Eskimos active roster to fill in for fellow Canadian LB Blair Smith, who was put on the six-game injured list over the bye week … American defensive lineman Kelcy Quarles was released from the practice squad … RB C.J. Gable did not practise Sunday, but the Eskimos had Shaq Cooper out on the field for the first time since suffering an injury in training camp … Canadian OL Jacob Ruby, who sat out the game in Winnipeg after starting the previous two at LG, was back practising Sunday.
On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge
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