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By Ted Michaels, CFL Editor - Archive - Email
Hamilton, ON (Sports Network) - The announcement was made, the news went viral and everyone was left with the same question: why now?

Saturday afternoon, at a hastily called news conference, Edmonton Eskimos President and CEO Len Rhodes announced Eric Tillman had been relieved of his duties as general manager.

"I have spent considerable time looking at the future direction of this club and did not see Eric as a part of this team moving forward," Rhodes said. "We will begin our search for a new general manager immediately and hope to have a successor in place by the end of the calendar year."

Rhodes said he met with the Eskimos' board of directors on Oct. 25 and told them he wanted to make the move.

"My decision was made, my decision was final, and I felt it was the interests of both parties to go forward with the decision," Rhodes said. "It's good for Eric in the sense that as a free agent, other clubs know that he's available, and for our club, once the decision is made, I believe that a GM's duties primarily are future-oriented, and the GM, in the best interest of our club, making sure that any decisions that impact the future are made by the group that's going forward."

Rhodes, who at times looked like the proverbial deer in the headlights, told the media conference, "There's no specific reason" for the firing of Tillman. "In general, as leader of the Eskimos, it's my job to set the direction of the team in terms of the vision and the future and bring the people that I want to put in place in their respective positions."

When pressed, he wouldn't, or couldn't, elaborate.

"There's no single reason why I've made the decision," he said. "It's a general decision, it's what I believe is best for the club, and that's the job as leader to make those decisions."

Tillman engineered the controversial December trade that sent quarterback Ricky Ray to Toronto for quarterback Steven Jyles, kicker Grant Shaw and a second-round draft pick. In a touch of irony, Sunday's Eastern semifinal will see the Argos hosting the Eskimos.

"That's not the reason why I've relieved Eric of his duties," Rhodes insisted. "It's the overall scheme of things. The trade continues to get a lot of headlines, and now we're going into Toronto and I suspect we'll get even more. At the time, I approved the trade, so why would I relieve someone (of his duties) when I approved the trade to begin with."

Good question, but still no definitive answer.

The rumblings in Edmonton said there was friction between the Eskimos' board and the 55-year-old Tillman, and the fact that Tillman continued to make his home in Regina, instead of moving to Edmonton, didn't sit well with some. Tillman joined the Eskimos in September 2010.

In that time, the club has had back-to-back playoff appearances.

In his 12 years as general manager with Edmonton, Saskatchewan, BC, Toronto and Ottawa, Tillman has four Grey Cup appearances with three wins. Rhodes tried to reassure the Edmonton fans, telling them, "My vision is to have a parade coming to Edmonton."

He better hope that parade doesn't escort him out of town.


One rumor that will not go away is that current Toronto Argos GM Jim Barker will not be in that role next season and that Tillman will take over as Argos GM.

Meantime, in Hamilton, the Tiger-Cats will be looking for a new president, when Scott Mitchell becomes the CEO of owner Bob Young's Canadian operations, with the goal to have the new person in place in 2014.

Ted Michaels is the host of the Fifth Quarter on AM900 CHML.

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