Esks hang help-wanted sign

CON GRIWKOWSKY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:30 PM ET

Help wanted. No experience necessary.

OK, it’s not quite that simple, but Edmonton Eskimos general manager Eric Tillman did point out the fact that four of the five head coaches he’s hired in his career have not had previous head coaching experience.

“Hiring somebody you haven’t worked with off an interview is kinda like marrying somebody off a blind date,” said Tillman. “How many times do we have great blind dates and a month removed we didn’t quite have the same enthusiasm?

“When you’ve worked with someone, you have a sense for what they’re like in the best of times and the worst of times.”

That’s put names like Kent Austin, Kavis Reed and George Cortez as the early frontrunners in the race.

Each brings his own pluses and has the prerequisite of having worked with Tillman.

• Austin is the godfather to Tillman’s oldest child, so that relationship is obviously closer than most.

• Reed, the former outstanding Esks defensive back, has built a resume working with different areas as a CFL assistant. Plus, his family continues to live in Edmonton year-round while Reed has been an assistant in Hamilton, Saskatchewan and Winnipeg.

• Cortez, a successful CFL offensive co-ordinator under Wally Buono, may be at a stage in his career where he finally jumps at a chance to become a CFL head coach. Now the quarterbacks coach with the 0-8 Buffalo Bills, the question is not if he’ll be available, but when.

“This is a tough business,” said Tillman. “We’re going to make mistakes, there’s going to be a lot of criticism. There’s assistant general managers on every corner.”

Or behind every typewriter.

It’s no secret Tillman has an ability to quickly analyze a situation and clearly articulate the path he intends to take and he expects the same level of intelligence in the people he’s going to send into battle.

“You find out a lot about people about how they handle the two extremes,” said Tillman. “When things are going well, do they change? When things are going poorly, do you blame other people?

“I think good communications is one (important factor). Communication and trust … and that comes from working together.

“Does that mean I won’t go outside? No, but that will be a big factor.”

Tillman had his own list of “philosophical differences” he had with departed head coach Richie Hall, that ranged from legitimate to perplexing.

“He felt strongly he wanted to continue as a head coach and defensive co-ordinator, and felt strongly he had the ability to do that,” said Tillman, who did not entirely agree.

Tillman believed that Hall’s game-day focus on positional responsibility distracted him from the responsibility as head coach has to put out fires in other areas.

“You have to be on the same page philosophically,” said Tillman.

“The face of your organization, the most important hire you make is the head coach. Everything else flows from there.”

That includes assistant coaches, some of whom Tillman will recommend the new head coach keeps.

“When you hire a new head coach, he always has two or three close people he wants to bring,” said Tillman. “There will definitely be changes in the off-season. When you bring in a new coach and your philosophy is to be younger and faster, then there are going to be changes.”

con.griwkowsky@sunmedia.ca


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