Tiger-Cats announce George Cortez as new head coach—on Twitter

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It turns out the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' lengthy wait to pick a head coach may have paid off, as they got their man. Back in December, a source indicated Buffalo Bills' quarterbacks coach George Cortez was Hamilton's top target, but they had to wait until the NFL season ended to talk to him, and it was never a sure thing he'd leave a prominent job south of the border to take a CFL job. The Tiger-Cats pulled it off, though, and team owner (or, as he prefers, caretaker) Bob Young announced Cortez's hiring as head coach and director of football operations on Twitter Saturday. Cortez has a reasonably impressive history in the CFL and the NFL, and he's worked with new quarterback Henry Burris and general manager Bob O'Billovich in Calgary, so this move could turn out quite well for Hamilton. However, it's still a gamble, as Cortez hasn't been a head coach at any significant level before.

It is interesting to note that the Tiger-Cats did this on Twitter and their website on a Saturday rather than waiting for an official press conference (which they'll probably still have). From this corner, this is a much better way of doing things; when teams wait for the initial conference to make things official, the news inevitably leaks early, but it still carries the disclaimer of being unofficial (and it leaves to several days where things are formally in an awkward state of limbo). Announcing a move like this over the web reflects the new world we live in where things don't always just happen in-person during the nine-to-five workday, and that's just fine from this angle. Good for the Tiger-Cats for being proactive and getting the news out quickly instead of waiting for the formal conference. They can still do that ceremony, and officially introducing the new coach to local media is probably still a good idea, but this avoids several days of awkwardly declining comment when everyone already knows what you're going to do.

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As per Cortez's qualifications, he has worked in the CFL over parts of four different decades now, starting as a running backs coach with the Montreal Concordes in 1984. He's served as a position coach with running backs, offensive linemen and quarterbacks as well as an as offensive coordinator, so he's well aware of everything that goes into running a successful offence. He also has significant NCAA experience (with Cal, SMU, Rice and Lamar University), and his NFL experience should prove useful as well. However, his most recent reviews are mixed. Cortez may have kept his job with Buffalo if the Tiger-Cats hadn't come calling, but his stock took a significant hit over this last season; quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick started the season very well and earned himself a massive contract extension in the process, but fell apart down the stretch, as did the Bills as a whole. Thus, referring to Cortez's work there as "turning Fitzpatrick into a premier QB" is probably a bit much (unless you credit Cortez for Fitzpatrick's rise and blame the QB himself for his fall). Also, many NFL offensive minds have failed in the CFL; Cortez is no Bart Andrus, as he's worked in the Canadian game for most of his career, but he'll still have to re-adapt to how things work north of the border.

With the move, Hamilton has their new head coach in place, but they'll have to push quickly to get a full coaching staff in place in time for the offseason's hectic schedule of free agent camps, team activities, the draft and more. The Tiger-Cats will need a new offensive coordinator and a new defensive coordinator, as Khari Jones and Corey Chamblin both left for Saskatchewan (as QB coach and head coach respectively), and there aren't a lot of prominent candidates with coordinator experience in the CFL left. Cortez obviously has plenty of connections throughout the NFL and the NCAA, so he could bring someone in from south of the border, but they'd then have to adapt to the CFL game, which isn't always easy.

Regardless of which direction Cortez decides to go, though, it will be his decision on the staff. Drew Edwards reports that Cortez has signed a four-year deal that gives him complete control over his assistants and over the 53-man roster, while O'Billovich will remain in day-to-day control over most of the player personnel side (recruiting players, negotiating contracts, running free agent camps). That could carry potential for organizational conflict like we saw in Saskatchewan, but O'Billovich and Cortez have experience together, and Cortez is expected to be involved in personnel decisions as well. We'll see how it plays out.

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