Saturday, 9 March 2013

Cats Make Front Office Moves

The Ticats made four hirings in their front office on Friday, naming Danny McManus the director of U.S. scouting, Drew Allemang the director of Canadian scouting, Shawn Burke as director of football administration and Eric Tillman as a consultant.

McManus, Allemang and Burke have all worked for the team previously, so the big news to come out of these hirings is bringing in Tillman.

To put it mildly, Eric Tillman is a polarizing figure. On the plus side, he has been a general manager for five different CFL teams over the course of his career and has won three Grey Cups in those stints. He is an astute football mind who has helped build winners almost everywhere he has been.

But a lot of opinions on Tillman changed two Decembers ago when he made perhaps the worst trade in pro sports history, sending future Hall of Fame quarterback Ricky Ray to the Toronto Argonauts. He has also had some troubles in his personal life. He plead guilty to sexual assault on a teenage girl in 2010 while general manager of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and was immediately dismissed as the team's GM.

But people shouldn't start worrying that Tillman will trade Henry Burris for a bag of shuttlecocks and $200 in pennies. Tillman is only a consultant and the final say on all matters still rests with Kent Austin. Austin will be the guy pulling the trigger, not Tillman.

And aside from the Ray deal, Tillman has shown he usually is right when dealing a player. The best example is when he shipped Kerry Joseph to Toronto in 2008. Many panned the move because Joseph had just led the Roughriders to their first Grey Cup win since 1989 and was named the league's Most Outstanding Player, but Tillman didn't believe Joseph was worth what he thought he was worth and sent him to Toronto. Joseph never recaptured his 2007 form and the Riders went to two Grey Cups with the team Tillman built (though he wasn't around for the second trip).

There really is no downside to bringing Tillman on as a consultant. He has a history of building teams into winners – say what you want about the Ray trade, but the Eskimos made the playoffs in both of Tillman's season as general manager – and has a good relationship with Austin, and can help the first-time GM navigate the waters in his first season at the helm of the Tiger-Cats.

Tillman brings invaluable experience and a history as a winner. He also has a chance to rehab his image with the Cats. This is a win-win from both sides, with little risk for Tillman and the team. All signs point to this being a successful marriage.

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