It’s the same old story for the Montreal Alouettes. But with a few plot twists.
The Birds of Prey were back to defend the nest against the Edmonton Eskimos this past Thursday. The Alouettes came out hot and were dazzling everyone to start, but then ultimately let mistakes happen and this game ended with a 44-23 loss. The Alouettes now sit at 1-5 and are left to wonder just where it all fell apart.
Only 16,000+ fans came out for the team’s lone Thursday night match-up. It appears that everyone and their mother were convinced that the newest Alouette quarterback Johnny Manziel was not only going to dress for this game, but actually be inserted as QB to play.
Unfortunately for the fans that plunked down their cash to get a #2 jersey or who were attending their first ever CFL game last night because of Johnny Football, another quarterback took the field and stayed the entire game. The Alouettes wisely sent out former NCAA star Vernon Adams Jr. to take on the Eskimos. Adams was starting his first game since November 2016 and was undefeated as a starting quarterback in the CFL going into this tilt.
While his final numbers weren’t outstanding (15/28, 217 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT), Adams took command and was able to get the ball downfield. There was a major shift in the energy of this team on offense and in that one quarter of play, Vernon Adams played like a man possessed. He used his feet to move the ball and made incredible plays, spreading the ball around to his receivers and racked up first downs.
It’s just unfortunate that the Alouettes defense decided not to show up for Vernon’s 2018 QB debut.
The second quarter proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that you do not sleep on Edmonton quarterback and reigning CFL Most Oustanding Player Mike Reilly. EVER.
I’ve seen some sorry defenses in my 20+ years of watching Alouettes football and this past Thursday’s effort ranks up there among the worst. Reilly came out and made some great throws and connected with Duke Williams for a pair of touchdowns plus really made something out of nothing when he found a wide open C.J. Gable while under pressure for yet another TD.
While you can’t discount the sheer excellence of Mike Reilly the football player, you can certainly control your ability to tackle. And the tackling of the Alouettes defense could only be summed as “piss-poor”. Especially on Williams’ second touchdown pass, where both Branden Dozier and Jermaine Robinson blew the coverage and let Duke waltz in untouched from the 45 yard line.
To say that Mike Reilly had a game would be a vast understatement. He went 24 for 32, throwing for 415 yards, completing FOUR touchdown passes and running in a TD himself. He said earlier this week that anyone who didn’t choose him in CFL fantasy was going to regret it. Reilly isn’t known for his trash talking but boy, did he ever put his money where his mouth is.
So naturally the elephant in the room was there live and in colour as Johnny Manziel did indeed dress for the game. But despite the lopsided score, Alouettes head coach Mike Sherman made no attempt to get the former Texas A&M superstar into the game. This angered many fans and disappointed many media types, who didn’t give a rat’s behind about this game and were there solely to see the enigmatic signal-caller in action.
Many even called shenanigans on the Alouettes organization, as their social media accounts started hyping Manziel immediately upon him being traded and promoting Thursday’s game as his “debut” in an Alouettes uniform. Sure enough, lots of people came to the stadium likely for the first time and were only too happy to buy his jersey, thinking he was going to play.
Folks, if you’re dumb enough to think that Mike Sherman, a professional head coach who has plied his trade in the NFL and NCAA for many years, is going to insert a quarterback who has had maybe two practices with his new team into a game just to appease fake fans and media talking heads, you deserve to have your money “stolen”.
Can Manziel be great? Maybe. But it sure as hell isn’t going to happen if you throw him into a bad situation like it was this past Thursday night. And while the score doesn’t complement him, Vernon Adams did not fail this Alouettes football team. Rather, the Alouettes football team failed Vernon Adams.
Had receivers Chris Harper and Ernest Jackson not dropped those sure-fire touchdown strikes and Boris Bede (who had been a perfect 8 for 8 in field goal attempts leading up to this game) not decided to crap the bed in breathtaking fashion by botching THREE of his five field goal attempts, this was a shaping to be a great win for the Alouettes against a very good Eskimos team.
I have nothing at all against Johnny Manziel and refuse to castigate him solely because of the hype he brings. If anything, I have to give him a ton of credit as he stood on the sidelines and supported his new teammates and then addressed those who were there to feed into the Manziel hype.
At one point, the idiot “fans” that I spoke of earlier started loudly chanting Manziel’s name as Adams and the offense were trying to get something going and failing as a result. With each missed opportunity by the Alouettes, the “JOHNNNNNY, JOHNNNNNY, JOHNNNNNY” chants grew louder and louder. It finally came to the point where Manziel himself had to wave his arms at these fans to be quiet and let the Alouettes do their work.
Manziel knows that these things are going to come about as a result of the star power he brings no matter where he plays (or in this case, doesn’t play). I think the “Johnny Football” of before would have soaked in those cheers and used it to finagle some playing time out of his beleaguered head coach. Instead, Manziel put his team above all else and showed that he knew that this was not going to be his time.
Johnny Manziel will see the field for the Alouettes, you can bank on that. But it won’t be as a result of some hambones attending their first game and bemoaning the fact they spent all this money and were taken for a pack of suckers.
If you are among those feel that way, that’s not on Manziel or the Alouettes; that’s on you. This past Thursday, you did get to see an exciting young quarterback play for the Alouettes. And I will bet you that you will see that same QB again next Friday versus the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
But don’t worry chumps, the Montreal Alouettes are only too happy to keep taking your money in the form of ticket and jersey sales. After all, they are a business and in business it’s all about this, right?
So now the Alouettes will prepare for next Friday’s game versus Manziel’s former team, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. As the week progresses and Manziel gets more reps in practice (which now fans are no longer allowed to attend because of “security measures”. Spare me), the groundswell of support for Manziel’s playing time will grow larger.
Based on his overall playmaking ability, I think Vernon Adams has proven himself worthy of another start. This team had a new energy to it with the former Oregon Duck behind centre and even in speaking to some of the players after Thursday’s game, they felt it too. If the defense that played in the second half of those losses to Ottawa and Calgary can show up next Friday, I think the Alouettes can get themselves back on track.
If Johnny Manziel continues to work hard and support his teammates like he did this past Thursday, I’m okay with giving him a few reps next Friday just to mix things up and see what the Heisman trophy winner can do. And if doing so means the bandwagoners will shut their yaps on offense because they got to see their precious Johnny Football in action, so much the better.
No matter what, I am feeling more encouraged despite this loss. I can see the foundation of something special being built here finally.
But there’s still a lot of work to be done. There’s still a lot of dead weight on this team and with any luck, more youngsters will step up and push it out of the way. You can change the quarterback all you want. But this past Thursday proved there are more problem areas that need to be addressed other than who’s behind centre.
Let’s see what this week of practice brings. As they say, on to the next one.