Schooners deal with Eric Tillman as VP of football ops in place before Christmas

The Atlantic Schooners agreement to hire Eric Tillman as vice president of football operations has been in place since before Christmas, per CFL source.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats, where Tillman had been employed since 2013, had given the Schooners brass permission to speak with Tillman regarding the role several weeks earlier.

Tillman has held the general manager title for six different CFL teams: B.C. Lions, Toronto Argonauts, Ottawa Renegades, Saskatchewan Roughriders, Edmonton Eskimos and Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

He has experience constructing a team from the ground up in Ottawa where he spent two seasons with the Renegades as football returned to the nation’s capital. During Tillman’s two seasons the Renegades went 4-14 and improved to 7-11. Quarterback Kerry Jospeh and linebacker Kyries Hebert were brought in by Tillman during that time in Ottawa and both are likely Hall of Famers.

The longtime CFL GM has a career record of 161-145-2. His clubs have been in six Grey Cups in 17 seasons, including three Grey Cup championships. The 61-year-old’s most notable successes have been taking over a 3-15 Lions team and turning it into a Grey Cup Champion in two years back in 1994. In Saskatchewan, Tillman inherited a team with one winning season in the previous 12 years. The Riders won the 2007 Grey Cup that first season under Tillman and former head coach Kent Austin.

Tillman was widely criticized for trading future Hall of Fame quarterback Ricky Ray during his time as Edmonton’s GM. Ray went on to win two Grey Cups with the Argos. When Tillman made the trade, he believed the club had two young quarterbacks with starting potential in Jeremiah Masoli and Matt Nichols on the roster. In Hamilton and Winnipeg, each became starters, with Masoli being voted runner-up for the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player award in 2018. While in Winnipeg, Nichols has led the Bombers to the playoffs in three straight seasons.

During his time in Hamilton, Tillman found or was involved in trading for several all-stars, including Masoli, receiver and returner Brandon Banks, plus linebackers Simoni Lawrence and Larry Dean. Tillman was part of the Ticats front office that executed the Johnny Manziel trade where the Ticats netted two first-round draft picks, receiver Chris Williams and ratio-breaking defensive end Jamaal Westerman.

Former Riders coordinator of football operations, Scott Annand, who has a long time background in Nova Scotia football circles, is expected to be Tillman’s first hire according to a CFL source.

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