Hot on Austin for Esks

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:59 PM ET

To come out today and suggest that Kent Austin could become the next head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos is just asking to be wrong. Right?

Despite everything I heard new GM Eric Tillman say Friday, I think its possible.

Do I think Kent Austin will be the next head coach here? said Tillman.

No.

So there you have it, Eskimo fans. Lets start talking about Kavis Reed, Dave Dickenson and George Cortez.

Go ahead. I cant get past Austin.

My personal and professional affection for Kent is well documented, Tillman continued after saying no.

He was our starting quarterback in B.C. I gave him his first coaching opportunity in Ottawa when, I confess, I did push him as an assistant coach. I hired him in Saskatchewan, sat with him when he was inducted to the Hall of Fame at Ole Miss. We go back a long way. He and Shelly are godparents to our oldest child.

Hes had five jobs in nine years with three kids. He has a multi-year contract and hes very happy at Cornell.

You can read the first paragraph and the last paragraph of that quote. Im reading the middle ones.

Bank robbers dont advertise their robberies.

Austin, as a rookie head coach, won a Grey Cup with Tillman in Saskatchewan. He left to become offensive co-ordinator at Ole Miss where he won back-to-back Cotton Bowls.

That led to the Ivy League head coaching job at Cornell, where he has a 2-6 record going into todays game at Columbia. One game remains on the schedule next week.

What if Austin, after his collection of experiences, has come to realize that hes best suited to being a head coach in the Canadian Football League? If he can leave Saskatchewan after one year, why couldnt he leave Cornell after one year?

Maybe Im reading between the lines here when I should be reading Eric Tillmans lips.

But Im not sure people understand what an attractive job the one which opened with Eskimos Friday is right now.

You have a team of tradition which has only missed the playoffs nine times in 62 years. But three of those have been in the last five years. And after Hugh Campbell personally provided 25 consecutive home playoff dates as a head coach, GM and CEO, the Eskimos havent had one since 2004.

With the construction complete on the Eskimos offices and $110 million of improvements including state-of-the-art setups on an entire football operations/coaching floor with adjoining fieldhouse to be completed to Commonweath Stadium by next season, the next head coach of the Eskimos will have an environment to work in and and a setup to attract players and staff the equal of the absolute best in the NFL and U.S. college football.

Another reason why I see Tillman going hard and creative at Austin is that hes the only coach who can step in and give the Eskimos a John Hufnagel or a Marc Trestman immediately.

This is a team which requires major restructuring in terms of Canadian content, salary structure and import/non-import ratio allocation on defence and offence, something Tillman had to do in his first full season in Saskatchewan when he hired Austin as head coach and won the Grey Cup.

Tillman and Austin are exceptionally close, as are their wives. And Austin is made to order for quarterback Ricky Ray both ways.

Back in 2007 when he was turning Kerry Joseph into a one-year wonder, I asked Austin in a pre-game press conference in Regina what he thought of Ray.

How much time do you have? he said.

Hes mature. Hes composed. He really understands what it takes to win. He understands defences. He understands the offence theyre running against the defence they play.

He makes great decisions. Hes accurate. Hes tough. Hes durable. He doesnt get hurt. Hes got a knack to get out of trouble. He can break tackles. Hes stronger than he looks. Is that enough for you?

Kent Austin would probably cost more money than your average CFL head coach in this situation. He has a good contract at Cornell. But if Tillman could get him, I think the notoriously frugal Rick LeLacheur and board chairman Doug Goss would find the funds because of the spectaculr mistake they made making Danny Maciocia a general manager.

Signing Kent Austin would be hitting the home run. The Edmonton Eskimos very much need that to happen here.

Ill leave it to everybody else to throw out all those other names. My money is on Kent Austin because my money is on Eric Tillman. I know how bad Tillman wants to succeed for the team that gave him back his football life and Austin is a very good friend who I suspect cant help but see a whole heck of a lot of upside in helping him to do that.

There. Ive talked myself into it. Now can Tillman talk Austin into it?

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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