A day after one of the worst seasons in Edmonton Eskimos history mercifully ended, players quietly filed out of the dressing room Sunday, garbage bags over their shoulders, knowing that for some of them it may be the final time they're in the room.
And it's not just the players who leave with doubts. The future of the entire coaching staff, from head man Kavis Reed down, is uncertain after a season that ended 4-14 and included just one win in nine home games.
As the players packed their belongings and headed for various locations, many of them could only shake their heads and wonder just what went wrong with a season that began with promise but then hit the skids with an eight-game losing streak.
"What went wrong? I have no answer for that," said veteran defensive back T.J. Hill. "I'm quite sure there were a lot of things that went wrong a but it was more that things didn't go our way as planned."
'What went wrong? I have no answer for that. I'm quite sure there were a lot of things that went wrong a but it was more that things didn't go our way as planned.' - Eskimos DB T.J. Hill
Reed said if one was to go back game by game "there's a yard here, a couple of seconds there, a penalty here a there's so many minute things that really magnified through the year."
They lost five straight games by five points or less but in virtually every late-game critical situation they came up short.
"We had chances early in the season to close out games and didn't take advantage of it so that wasn't helpful," said first-year quarterback Mike Reilly who started every game. "We showed we could be productive and we could do some really good things offensively. The consistency is not what it needs to be. For the first year of us all working together, the positives are we've shown that we can do some good stuff."
Calling it the hardest season of football he's ever played, Reilly, who led the CFL with 700 rushing yards but was hit more than probably any other quarterback, said one of the positives is that he "never once saw a guy in this room quit."
Linebacker J.S. Sherritt, last year's best defensive player in the CFL who missed several games this year with a broken thumb, said the season could only be summed up from the players' perspective in one word: disappointing.
"Obviously it's extremely disappointing but you have to learn a lesson from it or it's a waste," he said. "You either learn from it and get better or you just fade away. I know in my heart we have the right core people. We have to make changes and get better but I know we have a good team here."
The players acknowledge there has to be personnel changes and some of those will be the result of the expansion draft with Ottawa coming back into the league.
Reed met with his assistants Sunday morning to begin the post-season analysis of players and in his season-ending meeting with reporters didn't sound overly confident of returning as head coach.
"There is no such thing as confidence in this business. What will happen will happen. The one thing I'm most proud of is I found a way to quiet the noise to make certain that the locker room remained intact and that the health of this franchise remained at the forefront. There is nothing that Kavis Reed did that I'm not proud of. If this is my last year here I believe in the three years I've been here we've put this franchise back on the track it needs to be and it will enjoy success."
He insisted he would not change a thing he did this season in terms of the building process that continued under a first-year quarterback and a rookie general manager, Ed Hervey, who was highly critical of the team's offensive line right from training camp but did little to help improve that unit. Hervey's future is also uncertain, as is that of team president Len Rhodes.
"There will be deliberations about all coaching staff," said Reed. "We continue to work until someone comes and gets the keys or someone comes and escorts you out the door.
You're going to be judged on Ws and Ls. There isn't going to be that investigation into whether you're a good coach or not, it's Ws and Ls. It's as simple as that."
Among the few bright spots was the performance of slotback Fred Stamps who, despite missing three games, was the league's leading receiver with 1,259 yards, the fifth straight year he has surpassed 1,100 yards.