A long December for the Montreal Alouettes

It’s time for me to break my silence.

After watching this Montreal Alouettes team disintegrate under the rule of Kavis Reed as both general manager and head coach, it had become extremely difficult to express in written words my displeasure in what I saw before me.

Few things are as humbling as watching a team that you support rattle off eleven consecutive losses and lose their final game of the season in a match where they fail to notch one single point.

In a league that rewards teams for missing field goals, it’s unfathomable to think that you could not put ONE single point on the board.

But alas, these were the Kavis Reed-led Montreal Alouettes. If this “effort” in 2017 wasn’t proof positive that Kavis wanted zero part in leading this team on the field, I don’t know what to tell you. In late 2016, Alouettes fans were promised that the general manager would no longer be the head coach as well. That promise was swiftly broken.

Alouettes fans were told a lot of things during the season-ending press conference. Between Reed and team president Patrick Boivin, whose words to the press only angered fans of this team with their hollowness and complete disconnect, it really felt like this was a rudderless ship.

Fans of this team were served an even bigger slap in the face just a couple of weeks after their season was brought around back and a bullet was put in between its eyes. The Toronto Argonauts, a team that finished dead last in 2016 and rebuilt itself with numerous former Alouettes, somehow managed to put together a respectable 2017 campaign and parlayed that into a Grey Cup appearance. An appearance that not many gave them a hope in hell of winning.

But lo and behold, this ragtag group led by former Alouette czars Jim Popp and Marc Trestman shocked the CFL world and bested the Calgary Stampeders to win the 105th Grey Cup. That win did a lot of strengthen the football fans in Toronto and only furthered the narrative for many Alouettes fans, who felt that this team threw away its best parts and it came back to bite the Alouettes square on the rear end.

But that was then and we live in the now. The beautiful part of this league is that you can go from worst to first in the matter of a year. The Ottawa RedBlacks went from a 2-14 record to a Grey Cup appearance. The Argos went from dead last along with having no head coach or general manager to winning a Grey Cup. So if the right moves are made, there’s no reason to think that the Alouettes can’t break out of this vortex of suckage and get themselves back on track.

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What didn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence at season’s end was how the Alouettes GM would speak to the media about what was needed in order to become an elite team again. When the general manager talks about how the process in choosing the next field general would done “scientifically and artistically”, one can’t help but scratch their head and wonder just what the hell is this man talking about.

Also not helping the cause is that same man also talking about “going into the matrix” in order to find the right combination required to lead these football player in 2018 and beyond. For anyone who has enjoyed watching these Alouettes fall from grace, these statements were like trying to put out the dumpster fire by spraying it with gasoline.

These were no longer the once-proud Montreal Alouettes that made the playoffs every year and were a perennial Grey Cup contender year in and year out. These Alouettes were a pure, hot mess.

And with each passing day of the off-season that featured this team’s administration opening its mouth and vomiting out their rage-inducing words, things just looked bleaker and bleaker.

In order to change the culture, it has to start with hiring the right person to lead these players. The Alouettes conducted a number of interviews, bringing in a wide variety of coaches with varying degrees of experience. 

Many were hoping that an established name such as Devone Claybrooks or Mark Washington (both defensive coordinators  and former Alouettes as well!) would take their solid resumes and finally ascend to the next level. Others would have been okay with a steady coaching hand like Tommy Condell leading the charge in Montreal.

Other names were brought in that only served to add to the incessant mocking of how this Alouettes administration conduct themselves. The idea of Marcel Bellefeuille being considered for this position really makes you wonder just how “scientific” this process was. 

For this team to reach into their “matrix” and determine that a coach who had an insipid offense while he was with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers could possibly be the one to break out of the doldrums was simply mind-boggling.

A lot of these potential coaches withdrew their name from consideration and throughout this process, I really couldn’t help but wonder just what the hell was being asked of all of these coaches during the interview process.

I also wondered if Alouettes owner/lead governor Andrew Wetenhall was injecting himself in this process and possibly poisoning the well yet again. As he has assumed more and more of the ownership duties from his father Robert, we are seeing a lot of Andrew’s input in the football aspect of things, good bad or other. Unfortunately, it hasn’t really felt all that good.

As much as everyone wants to crap all over Kavis and his decisions as general manager, let’s not forget that it was ultimately Andrew Wetenhall who forced out Jim Popp and installed an inexperienced Kavis as GM. It’s easy to snicker at Kavis’ many missteps and refer back to the infamous “Consequences” video that has ultimately defined Reed’s career in the CFL.

Time was ticking away and a choice had to be made. Kavis did state that he was NOT going to screw up this head coaching appointment and that he would have this team’s next head coach before Christmas. Did he find his man? Will Alouettes fans know who the next coach is before they sit down to open presents on December 25th? Will this coaching hire be the home run that it has to be or will Kavis Reed strike out with another misguided personnel move?

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This week, Alouettes fans got their answer. Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus and he brought us a head coach. Ladies and gentlemen, the Mike Sherman era has begun in La Belle Province.

If the name sounds familiar to you, it is because this man does have head coaching experience, leading the Green Bay Packers from 2000-2005. He is an offensive-minded coach and has vast experience in working with quarterbacks, which this Alouettes team sorely lacks despite having the legendary Anthony Calvillo as a quarterbacks coach.

Interestingly enough, this hire felt a little bit like history was repeating itself as it was nearly ten years to the day when the Alouettes introduced a new head coach that had no CFL experience.  But this eager coach had worked with some talented quarterbacks and was ready to take on a very unique challenge.

People didn’t know what to make of Marc Trestman when he was given the head coaching job in Montreal and those same doubters ended up being floored at just what Trestman was able to do with a talented team and a quarterback that many felt was ready to be put out to pasture.

Interestingly enough, that’s pretty much how we find the Montreal Alouettes going into 2018. A team where the general manager was head coaching with less than favorable results. A team with an older quarterback who appeared to be a shell of his former self. A team that still had some talented players that perhaps were just not being guided properly. A team that nobody simply believed could be that powerhouse that they once were.

Can Mike Sherman reinvigorate the Alouettes? Can he be the next Marc Trestman or Marv Levy, experienced leaders who were taking on a very daunting task? Or will Sherman be another Bart Andrus or Dan Hawkins, who thought that this would be a cupcake job that would fast-track into the greener pastures of the NFL? We won’t know the answer to that for another couple of months when Sherman assembles his coaching staff and starts evaluating the players that he has on his roster.

Sherman will have to hire assistants that are well-versed in the Canadian game, there is zero question about that. My hope is that he is not expected to retain the coaches that were on this staff in 2017. I truly believe this team needs to be rebuilt in Sherman’s vision since he was the one given this position of power. 

And if that means letting people who have been a part of this organization go, be it as a coach, player or both, then so be it.

Both Sherman and Reed have to be on the same page with personnel decisions as this team cannot afford another Bear Woods debacle. The time for funny word games and fodder for keyboard warriors on Twitter has to be over. 

It’s now time for everyone in this administration to sack up and run this team properly. You know, like the professionals they are expected to be.

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The Montreal Alouettes have a very fan-friendly 2018 schedule and their promotions team have put together some pretty interesting ideas to get fans in the door for those ten football games at Percival Molson Stadium. That’s great that you want to get fans in the door. But winning football games will keep them coming back for more.

All-you-can-eat zones and student prices are terrific options, but fans in Montreal want to support a winner. Mike Sherman now has a very tall task ahead of him; he has to convince the fans that Kavis Reed didn’t make yet another mistake with this hire.

Sherman doesn’t have to revive the rotting corpse of Darian Durant the same way that Trestman did for AC in 2008, but he’s gotta improve this putrid offense. Sherman has to rebuild this team, one piece at a time.

If he can do that and rehabilitate this Alouettes franchise, it will be redemption for all involved. Many mistakes were made over the years. But that’s why pencils have erasers. Given how this process has come about, I’m willing to give Coach Sherman the benefit of the doubt and at least see who he brings on board with him, both coaching and player-wise. 

But gone are the days where fans will simply go along with whatever the team tells them.

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Nobody on this administration has earned that privilege. I sincerely hope that when we wake up from our hangover on January 1, 2018 that a new dawning will have truly begun for this Montreal Alouettes team.

Lord knows this fanbase has suffered enough and is tired of being played for fools. Consider your “get out of jail free” card as used, Mr. Reed.

Just like they will be on CFL Draft Day 2018, the Montreal Alouettes are officially on the clock.

GO ALS GO!!!

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