The only general manager that this current incarnation of the Montreal Alouettes has ever known will no longer be calling the shots.
After twenty one seasons, 8 Grey Cup appearances and three championships brought to the city of Montreal, Jim Popp is parting ways with the team that he has overseen since they were known as the Baltimore Stallions. It was said to be a mutual decision between himself and the Wetenhall family, who own the Alouettes.
Popp was expected to meet with the media along with Alouettes President and CEO Mark Weightman on Monday. But Weightman met with the media alone and delivered the news that Popp was no longer going to be associated with the Montreal Alouettes football team. Popp later released a statement thanking the organization and everyone involved with it for his two decades plus in La Belle Province.
Weightman did state that the search for Popp’s successor had started and that while there is a deadline to meet, the organization wants to do a proper search and explore all options. No immediate word was given regarding the head coaching position, but the understanding is that whoemever the Alouettes name as the next general manager will be allowed to choose the next head coach.
This news certainly had a ripple effect through the city and the Canadian Football League as well. Already the speculation has begun as to who will be chosen to lead the Alouettes, who have missed the Grey Cup playoffs for the second straight season.
While many were quick to praise Popp for all that he did in his tenure as the Alouettes’ GM, many were also quick to point out his shortcomings, especially in the wake of Anthony Calvillo‘s retirement as a football player.
This past season was especially taxing on Popp, as he was tasked with not only handling GM duties but he was also serving as the team’s head coach. A task that he has performed on four non-consecutive occasions throughout his time in Montreal, with middling results at best.
After the Alouettes lost a tough game in Hamilton in late September that essentially spelled the end of their playoff chances, Popp relinquished his head coaching duties to receivers coach Jacques Chapdelaine. Despite all that, Popp’s legacy should not be tarnished with a small number of forgettable seasons and some questionable decisions.
Instead, Popp should be remembered as the general manager who always found the talent hidden away at some faceless school. Or the player that was overlooked by the NFL but had the gifts to shine up north. Even when players would get injured or leave due to free agency, Popp always seeemed to have a backup plan in place, stockpiling Canadian depth at many positions.
It was Jim Popp that drafted a short receiver from Utah (that somehow was considered to be Canadian!) that became a bonafide legend and one of the CFL’s greatest pass-catchers. It was Jim Popp that successfully was able to build and rebuild an offensive line that was exclusively filled with Canadian-born players for years on end. And finally, it was Jim Popp who took a chance on a beleagured quarterback that started his pro career practicing in a Las Vegas casino’s parking lot and allowed him to become the greatest quarterback that this league has ever known.
Popp was also smart enough to bring in talented coaches that led this team to its championships. Without Popp, names like Don Matthews and Marc Trestman never see the light of day in this city. As great as he was at unearthing talent on the field, Jim was no slouch when it came to giving an unproven coach the shot he needed to prove his worth.
When you look at the overall picture, these will be some massive shoes to fill no matter who the Alouettes end up hiring. Already names are being bandied about to take over this team. We’ll delve more into that when the time comes. Suffice to say that no matter who ends up as the next general manager of this Alouettes team, they will have a clean slate to work with.
As I said earlier, change is in the air. We have only just begun.