announced the return of Tim Burke (and Joe Mack) for 2013 and now the Edmonton Eskimos, a week before they play the Toronto Argonauts in the East Division Semi-Final, have fired general manager Eric Tillman.
The timing seems a little odd, but this seemed like a move that was going to be made sooner rather than later. After the blunder that was the Ricky Ray trade, the clock was ticking on the Tillman era in Edmonton. He gambled and pretty much lost. The Argos may not have ripped up the league with Ray, and Edmonton did make the playoffs without him, but is their really any doubt who won that deal?
Now the speculation will start up as to where Tillman will land (because with his three Grey Cup rings as a general manager, he will land somewhere). Some say Ottawa and others say Toronto. Dave Naylor squashed the Ottawa part by saying the expansion Ottawa team will not want to look to the past – Tillman was the Renegade GM from 2002-2004 – for their general manager.
The Toronto rumour was slightly squashed by Naylor, but not entirely. he said he spoke to Argo president Chris Rudge and that they haven't had any discussion about hiring Tillman. That doesn't mean that aren't having those discussions right now, just that they hadn't when Naylor talked to Rudge. There are rumours that Jim Barker will not return as Toronto's GM, so Tillman would be an obvious replacement. But if Tillman somehow lands in Toronto, the Ray deal begins to look highly suspicious. I'm not one prone to believing conspiracy theories, but the optics of the Argos hiring Tillman just a year after he gift wrapped Ray to them wouldn't be good.
There is also another team, one near and dear to my heart, that is kind of in the market for a general manager: the Ti-Cats.
Tiger-Cat president Scott Mitchell said in Septmeber that Bob O'Billovich would be leaving his post as VP of Football Operations before the start of the 2014 season. Teh rumours of Obie retiring have come up the last couple of years, but a GM with the the success of Tillman could make the Ti-Cats move up their succession plan. Tillman's track record is impressive, three Grey Cup wins in 14 years as a GM with four different teams. Tillman does make some curious moves – such as trading Ray and, prior to that, trading reigning MOP Kerry Joseph in 2008 – but his Grey Cup rings speak for themselves. While I am not 100 per cent sold on Tillman being the guy to run the Ti-Cats, the team could do a lot worse than him in picking the man to replace Obie.
Wherever Tillman ends up, I don't expect him to be out of work for very long. We'll probably know sooner rather than later where Eric Tillman will cal his football home.