Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Edmonton Eskimos Fire General Manager Eric Tillman Ahead of Post-Season

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Edmonton Eskimos Fire General Manager Eric Tillman Ahead of Post-Season

Article excerpt

Eskimos fire general manager Eric Tillman


EDMONTON - The Edmonton Eskimos couldn't, or wouldn't, single out any one reason for firing general manager Eric Tillman.

The team announced on Saturday it had ended Tillman's contract effective immediately and Eskimos president and CEO Len Rhodes said in a statement that he "did not see Eric as a part of this team moving forward."

But Rhodes declined to give a reason for the decision at a media conference and insisted over and over that there was no single cause for Tillman's dismissal.

"It's what I believe is in the best interests of the club, for the long term of the club," said Rhodes. "I'm very proud of what Eric's done. Everything he's done has been what he thought was in the best interests of the club. It's a business decision.

"We've decided to go with someone else."

The timing, however, is surprising as Edmonton (7-11) finished its regular season Friday with a third straight loss, 30-27 to the Calgary Stampeders but still qualified for the post-season.

The Eskimos will face the Toronto Argonauts in the East Division semifinal Nov. 11 at Rogers Centre after earning a cross-over berth.

Rhodes said he informed the team's board on Oct. 25 that he wanted to replace Tillman and he said he had the board's full support. He said Tillman was informed after returning to Edmonton on Friday and that he took the news "like a gentleman."

There had been much speculation of friction between the 55-year-old Tillman and other members of Edmonton's front office. Also, Tillman hadn't moved his family to Alberta from Regina since joining the Esks, which raised questions about his commitment to the CFL club.

Another alleged sticking point between the club and Tillman was the trade of former Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray -- who will lead the Argonauts on Nov. 11 -- for QB Steven Jyles, kicker Grant Shaw and the second pick of the 2012 CFL draft last December.

Ray led Edmonton to two Grey Cup titles over his nine seasons there.

Tillman came under a lot of fire for the move of Ray, who not only was one of the most prolific passers in franchise history but also a huge fan favourite.

Rhodes, however, dismissed the idea that Tillman's dismissal had anything to do with the Ray trade.

"At the time, I approved of the trade. Why would I relieve someone when I approved of the trade to begin with?" Rhodes asked.

Ray guided the Eskimos to an 11-7 record last year and a tie for first in the West Division with B.C. and Calgary. Edmonton dispatched the Stampeders 33-19 in the opening playoff round before losing to the eventual Grey Cup-champion Lions 40-23 in the conference final.

The Eskimos were 2-0 against Ray and the Argos this season, but Toronto (9-9) not only posted a better record than Edmonton but Ray threw for 4,059 yards this year, the seventh time in his CFL career he has surpassed the 4,000-yard passing plateau. …

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