[url=http://rodpedersen.blogspot.com/2010/04/tillman-comments-on-release-of-harrell.html]http://rodpedersen.blogspot.com/2010/04 ... rrell.html[/url]
Former Rider GM Eric Tillman was the man who brought Graham Harrell - the record-setting QB from Texas Tech - to Saskatchewan. Below, Eric comments via email on the Riders' release of Harrell today:
I have not spoken with the media since I resigned, but, in fairness to other people, I'll be glad to on this one.
No, I'm not totally surprised by the news. Here's a little history: when Graham came north he had an offer to play in the new UFL. That's the league where Denny Green, Jim Haslett, Jim Fassel, etc, all former NFL guys, were coaching. Many Canadians, with good reason, don't know much about that league, because it was on US cable only.
Anyway, Graham turned down a larger offer from them and came to Canada for about $4000 a game. It would have gone up to about $5000 a game this year, if I remember correctly. Why did he come to Saskatchewan for less money? One, because he loved the spread offense - Texas Tech's system has many CFL similarities. And, two, because when we initially recruited Graham, I told his agent we had three young quarterbacks (Durant, Jyles and Bell), and it was a great opportunity for Graham to come in and compete for the starting job at some point.
After he missed our training camp, we kept recruiting him hard, but I was honest - saying 2009 might prove to be nothing more than a developmental year. But, at the same time, trying to encourage him, too, by saying if Graham played well enough in practice, he certainly MIGHT get some playing time late in 2009.
As always, though, it was made clear that decision would be made by Ken Miller and the coaches. As everyone knows, Graham waited and waited on a second NFL opportunity, after attending the Browns mini camp in May, hoping Cleveland, or someone, would sign him. Given the NFL pay scale, we all understood that. When no NFL offers came their way, he finally agreed to come to Canada instead of the UFL - but, like I said, that was well after the Riders training camp was completed.
Graham's arrival, fortunately for us, but unfortunately for him, coincided with Darian playing very well. With that high level of play by Darian, and with the confidence the players and coaches had in him, the opportunity quickly wasn't what it might have been for Graham if he had participated in training camp.
Looking back, you have give credit to Kenny for believing in Darian, and to Darian for seizing the moment. Based on multiple conversations, though, the coaches all seemed to like and respect Graham very much after he arrived - and said they wished we had had him from day one.
But, in late September, shortly before the trade deadline (Oct 14th), his agent (Jon Persch) asked for us to trade Graham. He was very respectful, but stated strongly Graham felt with DD's emergence, he wouldn't ever have a fair chance to compete to be the starter in Saskatchewan. In particular, Jon mentioned Toronto, as a desired destination. I countered, suggesting, if he stayed, Graham would have a real chance to compete for the number two job in 2010; but that clearly wasn't what they preferred. Their response wasn't in a combative way at all - they were very complimentary of Darian, and the other qb's, too - but, it was crystal clear: Graham wanted to be somewhere where he could COMPETE to be the starter!
So, I spoke with Adam Rita at length on the phone, and we met in my home a few days later - the night before the Riders-Argos game in early October. That was right before the trade deadline. I gave Adam a college DVD of Graham at Tech for them to review. After they returned to Toronto, Adam and Bart looked at the DVD, and within a couple of days, we were talking specifics; but, unfortunately, we simply couldn't reach an agreement that I felt was fair to the Riders.
We had an offer in the west, too, but I felt it was a mistake to trade Graham within the division...especially, since that offer wasn't a first round draft pick, or even a second. We wanted a conditional number one pick, based on if Graham became a starter with his new team. Anyway, Adam and I agreed to talk further after the season. Obviously, things changed significantly with Bart Andrus and me leaving our positions, with Brendan and Kenny getting promotions, and with Jim Barker's arrival in Toronto.
My sense is the new Toronto regime really liked Dalton Bell, but any discussions regarding Dalton, Graham, etc, from early January on, should go through Kenny, Brendan or the Argonauts. In fairness to Kenny, and the staff, they did a great job developing Darian.
And, in total fairness to Brendan, who's a great guy, this Graham situation is a hot potato he simply inherited. So, if anyone's unhappy a trade wasn't consummated back then, please blame me, not Brendan or Kenny. In fairness to Graham, he has really had a tough year, or so.
His father - and they're very close - was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), and, then, his NFL dream didn't come to fruition. So, he comes to Canada wanting to PLAY, and, then, Darian grabs the starting job and plays his backside off. That happens in football, but, players are just human beings who wear jersey's for a living - they get frustrated just like the rest of us do. In truth, Graham's a really good young man, who's been dealt some lousy cards recently, especially with his Dad's illness.
Sorry this was long, but, there were many elements to Graham's situation, and I hope this helps clarify several aspects.
And, again, if there's any fault to be passed around, please blame me. We could have traded Graham last October, and I take responsibility for that.