O’Leary: Maas knows team discipline starts with him


It’s not often you see a marked, clear-cut turning point in a team’s season.

Jason Maas tried to lay one out on Monday night.

Speaking on his weekly coach’s show on 630 CHED, Maas took on his team’s biggest issue. All it took was the word ‘penalties’ from CHED’s Morley Scott to get the ball rolling.

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“I’ll say this about penalties and I’ll say this about discipline. I haven’t done a good enough job since I’ve been here and that’s evident,” Maas said.

“We’ve been one of the worst teams in the league in penalties since I’ve been here. We’ve gotten better in stretches this season but not quite good enough. It’s my fault and I’m going to take the blame.”

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Edmonton’s Jason Maas took ownership for his team’s lack of discipline since taking the role of head coach back in 2016. (Johany Jutras, CFL.ca)

Through eight games, the Esks are the league’s least disciplined team, having been flagged 84 times for 895 yards. Last year, Edmonton was eighth in flags (158) and sixth in yardage (1,484). In Maas’ first season as head coach in Edmonton in 2016, his team was the eighth-most flagged (206 penalties) and gave up 1,644 yards, seventh-most in the league.

It hasn’t been good and the fiery coach – you pick up on that daily, whether he’s in a scrum with reporters or talking with you one-on-one – wants to fix it.

“I can tell you from this day forward that things are changing in our organization. It starts with me. The way I approach the game, the way I am, is going to change,” he said.

“I’m going to make sure that I change, so that when I look at players and I talk about discipline they understand it’s everybody and it starts with me as a head coach. It’s not on my players, it’s on me. I need to be better. And I will.”

With that, the water coolers and headsets at Commonwealth Stadium and the occasional member of Maas’ coaching staff may be able to breathe a sigh of relief. The coach that TV cameras love to monitor on the sidelines during games sees a core issue with his team and wants to address it, starting with the face that’s blinking back at him in the mirror.

“We’re going to start kicking guys out of practice for messing up or we’re going to start taking game time away from guys that continue to make penalties. They understand it. They know it,” Maas said. “It’s about holding ourselves accountable and it’s gotten to the point that we can’t tolerate it anymore. It will stop and if not we’ll find other people that can do it.”

Watching Jason Maas’ Esks teams these last three seasons has been something of a roller coaster. We’ve seen a coach that has fully unleashed Mike Reilly with a big-play, fast-paced offence that has turned him into the league’s reigning MOP. For all of their toughness and their comeback abilities, it often feels like they’re taking time to fight themselves along the way.

“We’ve won a lot of games since I’ve been here and again, I haven’t done a good enough job,” Maas said.

“If we want to win a championship here, this has to stop. We have to get better. And again it starts with me. I put my foot down. I’ve looked myself in the mirror and said I haven’t been good enough. I haven’t been good enough on the field with it, I haven’t been good enough with my attitude at times. There are things that I need to change and I’m going to. It’s going to reflect more on our team and I’ve realized it.”

Maas pointed to penalties killing an offensive drive in BC last week, and an offside call putting the Lions in field goal range. They’re small things that impact the game, that will only matter more as the season progresses.

“We’re getting there. I like to think that if we figure it out, we’ll be a whole hell of a lot better and win the games that we should,” he said.

If they can clean up their game in that crucial area, the Esks get a lot better and take a stressful element out of the viewing experience of their fans. Maas and his team get its first chance at their new start on Saturday against the Alouettes.

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