Walch helps Edmonton get offensive

August 22, 2017 GMT

Carson Walch, in his seventh season as a coach in professional football, has adjusted very nicely in his new role with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League.

After spending 2016 as the receivers coach and passing game coordinator with the Eskimos — his first season in Edmonton — the Elgin native is thriving as the team’s offensive coordinator in 2017.

“My job is similar, but with play-calling duties on game days and overseeing of the offensive staff and making sure of things going (smoothly) on game days,” Walch said. “We have a great staff and great guys to work with.”

Walch spent three years as an assistant coach with Montreal in the CFL from 2010-12 and two years in the NFL with the Chicago Bears in 2013-14. But this is his first stint as a coordinator.

“It’s a challenge, but I welcome it,” Walch said. “There’s always room for improvement; we’re trying to get better all the time.”

On the field, the Eskimos have been perfect this season in terms of wins and losses. They are 7-0 and are leading their division. CFL teams play an 18-game regular-season schedule and two preseason games.

Edmonton has a long history of success in the CFL. The Eskimos have won the most Grey Cups (the league’s version of the Super Bowl) in the history of the CFL. They won a league championship in 2015 and reached the semifinals last year in Walch’s first year with the club. Still, the team is off to its best start since 1961.

“But it’s pro football so you could lose the next six in a row if you don’t do things right,” Walch said.

The CFL game is a bit different than the NFL, with a longer and wider field, a deeper end zone and 12 players on the field at the same time. And on offense, a team has just three plays to make a first down, not four.

Walch, however, believes in time of possession and not turning the ball over. The Eskimos have run the most in the CFL this season, but quarterback Mike Reilly also leads the league in completion percentage and quarterback ranking. The team is third in the league in scoring.

“To me, it’s all about balance and taking care of the ball and protecting the quarterback,” Walch said.

During the season, Walch resides in downtown Edmonton, right across from the city’s new hockey arena. From his apartment window, he can see a statue of former Edmonton Oilers great Wayne Gretzky.

“It’s a great city for football,” Walch said. “But hockey is still king in Canada.”

Walch said the Eskimos usually draw between 35,000 and 40,000 fans a game. With the team’s hot start, hopes are high of making another run at a Grey Cup title. Walch was part of one Grey Cup championship team when he was with Montreal.

“Our goal is to stay healthy and make a run at it,” he said.

The playoffs in the CFL begin in early November. Once the season is done, Walch will get a nice break and head back to Minnesota.

“It’s football 24/7 for me six months a year,” Walch said. “The other six months it’s study football, travel and hang out with family and friends.”

Walch appreciates that the CFL isn’t a year-around job, like it nearly is in the NFL.

“For me, that’s what it’s all about,” he said, “balance and quality of life. It’s not all about football.”

Walch realizes life would change if he were to get another shot at coaching in the NFL. But right now he isn’t looking ahead, only to the next game in Edmonton.

“I just want to do the best I can for the Eskimos and I think everything will take care of itself,” he said.