It hasn’t taken Ed Hervey long to get used to his new colours.
Hervey became the B.C. Lions general manager Nov. 30, less than eight months after being fired by the Edmonton Eskimos. That ended Hervey’s 18-year association with the franchise as a player, scout and GM.
“Oh yeah, I look good in orange,” Hervey said with a chuckle during a telephone interview following the CFL president and GM meetings in Banff. “I was fortunate to be in Edmonton for as long as I was and take nothing but great memories from there and had some exciting memories (three Grey Cup wins).
“But I’m also happy to be a part of the B.C. Lions. I’m looking forward to the days ahead and hopefully the success that comes with it.”
Hervey, 44, replaces Wally Buono, who’ll remain the Lions’ vice-president of football operations and head coach for the 2018 season. Buono has the most head-coaching Grey Cup victories (five) and regular-season wins (266) in league history, but B.C. (7-11) finished last in the West Division last year and missed the playoffs for the first time in 21 seasons.
It was certainly a dismal season for the Lions, who were 3-6-0 at home, 4-5-0 on the road and 3-7-0 within the West Division. B.C. often shot itself in the foot, leading the CFL in turnover ratio (-19), sacks allowed (49), quarterback pressures (141) and interceptions (28).
Quarterback Jonathon Jennings also had a down year. After passing for 5,226 yards and 27 TDs in 2016, the 25-year-old threw for 3,539 yards, 16 TDs and a career-high 19 interceptions last season.
There were bright spots.
Receivers Bryan Burnham (81 catches, 1,202 yards, seven TDs) and Manny Arceneaux (100 catches, 1,137 yards, six TDs) were among the league’s best while running back/returner Chris Rainey led all players with 3,181 combined yards. Linebacker Solomon Elimimian had a CFL-record 144 tackles and rookie Ty Long was the top punter (47.9 yards) and made 39-of-44 field goals (88.6 per cent).
Hervey doesn’t believe he has to overhaul B.C.’s roster, but admits change is inevitable.
“There’ll be players who want to go to other teams because it’s closer to their homes and there’ll be players we’ll want to bring in because they bring a different element to our team,” Hervey said. “We’re far from an overhaul but I think like any team we’ll make changes but they’ll be to improve areas we felt we lacked in last season.”
B.C. has signed Arceneaux and Canadian offensive lineman Cody Husbands to contract extensions but still has 20 players slated to hit the free-agent market Feb. 13. Hervey is hopeful he can get others signed before that time.
One pending free agent is veteran quarterback Travis Lulay. The 34-year-old was solid in place of Jennings before suffering a season-ending knee injury in September.
“He’s progressing well,” Hervey said. “Travis is a fighter and competitor and will obviously put in all the time to rehab and make sure he’s 100 per cent when he’s ready to go.
“If it’s a case where he’d like to come back, we’d love to have him back. But we’ll take our time to make sure a) he wants to b) he’s healthy and c) just make sure all the dominos fall into place as far as making sure we do what’s best for our team.”
There’s plenty riding on the Lions resuming their winning ways. Attendance at B.C. Place Stadium is lagging and the club has had a reduced presence in its market.
Owner David Braley wants to sell the franchise but doesn’t expect it to happen before the end of 2018. And after this season, Hervey will have to find Buono’s coaching successor.
“I can only focus on the responsibilities in front of me right now,” Hervey said. “That’s trying to put the best product we can on the field to make sure we’re competitive … and working hand in hand with Wally to make sure we deliver the kind of team our fans expect and our players would want to play on.
“If we’re able to do our jobs and everyone’s on the same page, we’ll have positive days and see where we’re at when the dust settles.”
Hervey’s departure from Edmonton was surprising given the Eskimos were 40-32 during his tenure as GM and captured the ’15 Grey Cup. But president Len Rhodes cited two reasons for the move: an impasse in contract negotiations — Hervey was in the final year of his deal — and philosophical differences, most notably regarding team access.
Hervey was portrayed publicly as being difficult to work with and someone who had strained relationships with some Eskimos players and club officials, including Rhodes, as well as former CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge.
“That’s just part of the game, things are said,” Hervey said. “No one will ever know what happened, I’m not going to go down that road as far as what happened.
“That chapter is closed. I’m just looking forward to continuing my career with the B.C. Lions.”
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press