Three weeks after Eric Tillman was fired as general manager of the Edmonton Eskimos, 13 candidates have tossed their helmet into the ring for the job, CEO and president Len Rhodes said Saturday.
Rhodes confirmed ample speculation that head coach Kavis Reed and head scout Ed Hervey are the only two internal candidates, with 11 others applying from north and south of the Canadian border.
“Ed Hervey is officially a candidate and with Kavis, he’s getting involved in the dialogue, in the process and wants to make sure himself where he best contributes to the team,” Rhodes said in a telephone interview with me and beat writer Chris O’Leary from Toronto.
What’s more, both Reed and Hervey will be included on whatever short list the club produces as it puts the candidates through the interview process, which Rhodes said will begin this week.
The first-year club executive wants to hire a new GM by the end of December or early in January.
“They will get an automatic bye right to the short-list,” Rhodes said of Reed and Hervey. “And when I say ‘bye’ it’s not because we’re doing them any favours, they’ve earned that right.
“And they’ve had the greatest advantage of all, they’ve been with the organization and there’s a lot less mystery surrounding them. And when you’ve got two great people, I believe we owe them that respect.”
The last two GMs, Danny Maciocia and Tillman, were both outsiders in a tight, tradition-soaked community that reveres its CFL club and the so-called ‘Eskimo Way.” In that light, Rhodes was asked whether, all things being equal, the successful candidate would need to be one of the internal ones.
Maciocia won a Grey Cup as head coach of the Eskimos in 2005, but the club’s won-lost record deteriorated from 2006 through the mid-season of 2010, when he was fired.
Tillman’s Eskimos went 11-7 in 2011, his first full season as GM, but slumped to 7-11 in 2012, the year of the infamous Ricky Ray trade to Toronto. And Tillman proved to be a polarizing individual in the club’s front office for a variety of reasons.
“I am a big believer that internal candidates that you believe have potential deserve have strong merit,” Rhodes said. “But you also owe it to the organization to look and cast a net to see other qualified individuals.
“But all things being equaL, internal candidates I believe in, in my mind, have an edge. But this allows us to see if things are all equal, or if there are people within the marketplace who are available who could come in and bring an extra dimension that perhaps we don’t have.
“So, we’re being completely open-minded, but I do want to emphasize the fact that when you’re talking about Ed Hervey and Kavis Reed, they are two individuals that are respected within not only the football club, but I know they are in the marketplace.”
Rhodes also said he and the Eskimos board of directors is looking at a “great range of applicants, that brings rich diversity to the process.
“We’re not looking at applications that are clones of each other.”
The club has already begun the process of seeking permission to speak with candidates already employed elsewhere in the CFL, Rhodes said.
Rhodes said candidates who have spent time with the organization in the past would be evaluated with an open mind, also. That could include someone like Tom Higgins, a former Eskimos GM and head coach currently serving as the CFL’s director of officiating, for example.
“If you have a great person who may have left for one reason or another, does that mean they can never come back?” Rhodes said. “I believe if you have a very qualified individual that the door should always be open, if they buy into the passion of what it means to be an Eskimo and if they’re competent at what they do, absolutely.”
Whoever the applicant is, don’t expect him to be both GM and head coach. Rhodes made clear he prefers those two positions not be held by the same individual.