The nice thing about hitting the bottom is that once you do, you have nowhere to go but up. I sincerely hope that the Montreal Alouettes have finally hit the bottom.
I had thought the performance in BC two weeks ago was bad, but I never thought it would be as awful as it was this past Friday versus the Toronto Argonauts. Despite missing some key players and playing a pretty lousy first half, the Argos had no problem manhandling the Alouettes by a score of 31-5. Maybe kicker Sean Whyte should have been given the chance to play QB, since he was the only Alouette to actually score points.
Troy Smith was on a short leash and sure enough, when he didn’t produce he was yanked. But when third string (!) QB Alex Brink didn’t light up the scoreboard either, Smith was thrown back in. And then yanked again for Brink. Not sure how you are supposed to establish any sort of rhythm with a carousel like that, but what do I know. And for all of Ryan Dinwiddie’s yelling to get it together at practice, he surely didn’t have it either as the play-calling was as brutal as can be.
If the trend in football nowadays is to store the playbook on an IPad, then someone must have done a hard reset on Dinwiddie’s because he had absolutely nothing going on. It was an absolute embarrassment to watch this Alouettes team play at a high school level from top to bottom. Even more incredible was that Toronto played so poorly in the first half; this was a totally winnable game for Montreal and they just came out completely flat.
With the win, the Argos sit atop the East at a paltry 2-4, while Montreal sits tied with Ottawa & Hamilton for second. Amazingly, two out of these four teams will host playoff games in November. No wonder sometimes why people look down disparagingly at this league.
To his credit, Jim Popp is doing his best to clean up a mess that he didn’t make. Ever since the Dan Hawkins debacle, this Alouettes team has been trying so hard to capture that same magic they had when they hired Marc Trestman in 2008. Problem is, this team’s owners are meddling in areas that perhaps they shouldn’t be.
I gave the Wetenhall family a pass for Hawkins as they were clearly sold a bill of goods by him. It seemed afterwards that the short-term plan was to have Popp stay on at head coach until defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe had a bit more experience under his belt and then let him have the keys to the kingdom, with Anthony Calvillo as a possible offensive coordinator. And if that meant that 2014 was another year of middle of the road play, then so be it.
But instead the Wetenhalls panicked and hired Tom Higgins as head coach in February, when all the highly-sought after coaches had already been hired. And while Higgins HAD experience in the CFL, it really seems now that this game has passed him by. His inability to win coaches’ challenges is a real head-scratcher when you consider he spent the last six seasons in Toronto at the CFL’s command centre, reviewing the referees’ calls. If ANYONE should know where and when to challenge a call successfully, it should be the former head of officiating, no?
And the staff that Higgins put together certainly is proving to be a winner, hiring Rick Worman as OC then firing him during training camp before the team plays any sort of game. And while a lot of players are behind Ryan Dinwiddie and his ability to be a coach in this league one day, he’s certainly been handed a lot to handle far too soon.
Imagine if the owners of Wal-Mart suddenly decided to let the guy who’s mopping the floors try to run one of their stores. Dinwiddie pretty much went from coaching intern to being responsible for the offense of a CFL team in LESS than a calendar year. Look at all the coaches who are having success now in the CFL and check their resumes, I’m fairly sure none of them only had one year of “coaching” experience.
So now the Alouettes have a plethora of “consultants” and coaches to try and sort out this mess. And already the knives are being sharpened and waiting to be firmly planted into backs. It’s a sorry state of affairs that could have been avoided on so many levels. The biggest mistake is not letting the man who has keep this team competitive for nearly two decades do what he does best.
I have complete faith that Jim Popp will right these wrongs; let’s just hope from this point on that the Wetenhall family will kindly stay in their lane and just keep stroking cheques to pay for the cleaning crew.
I really wish this blog was coming across as more positive, but as an actual fan and not a reporter who delights in this team’s failures in order to move dead trees, I want this Alouettes team to thrive and do well. I still believe in this team’s overall potential. Every team goes through slumps and we Alouettes fans are truly spoiled, as this team has had only two losing seasons out of eighteen and still have NEVER missed the playoffs!
And maybe that’s just it. We fans simply cannot accept losing because we’ve never truly experienced it. Sure, the Als have lost Grey Cups but we as a fanbase have never sat through a 1-17 season, we’ve never experienced draft bust after draft bust and we have never had to worry once about this team folding since the Wetenhall family took over.
Look at each and every CFL team since 1996; every single one has had years of hardships. There’s only one team that has been truly consistent in that time period and that team is ours, Alouettes Nation. We have been the model franchise for so long and somehow, we have to believe that this will get turned around. Incredibly, there’s still time in 2014. This season is only 1/3 of the way done!
Still need cheering up? At least a former rock star isn’t trying to buy our beloved team and move it to a foreign country. Things can always, ALWAYS be worse.
I’ll be back with a game preview for this Friday’s tilt versus the upstart Edmonton Eskimos.
GO ALS GO!!!
About the Author
Written by Clifford Pine
Montreal born & bred, lover of sports. Passionate about the Montreal Alouettes. Also a great cook & not too bad a dancer.