The football world was buzzing this past week with the news that Johnny Manziel would be starting his first professional football game in over 2 years for the Montreal Alouettes. Many people believed, even expected, to see him dominate and show the world what Johnny Football was all about.
This past Friday, those hopes were dashed in spectacular fashion. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats (Manziel’s former team) came into Percival Molson Stadium and dominated the game from start to finish, crushing the Alouettes 50-11. To say that Manziel failed to live up to expectations is a vast understatement.
The first quarter alone was an absolute trainwreck for the Alouettes, as Hamilton scored a touchdown on their opening drive and it didn’t stop from there. Manziel’s first official CFL pass was for a loss of 5 yards. His second pass was picked off by Larry Dean deep in Alouettes territory and led to an easy Ticat touchdown.
After another two and out by the Alouettes, Boris Bede came in to punt the ball away. But a missed assignment saw Hamilton’s Curtis Newton come flying in untouched to block Bede’s kick. Sean Thomas Erlington was able to scoop up the ball and waltz in for another Tiger-Cats touchdown. Whew.
Now down 21-0, Manziel was feeling the pressure to get the ball downfield. Scrambling to get away, he tossed a high and wobbly pass to Tyrell Sutton that bounced off his fingertips and into the hands of Jumal Rolle. That would be the first of Rolle’s two interceptions on the night.
Another Ticats touchdown later and the first quarter ended with a 28-0 lead for Hamilton. The same Hamilton team that struggled to score FIFTEEN total points last week versus the Ottawa RedBlacks.
The final numbers for Johnny Manziel were far from pretty (11/20, 104 yards, 0 TDs, 4 INTs). As has been the case all season for the Montreal Alouettes and their quarterbacks, he had moments of brilliance but they were few and very far between. The only Alouettes points on Friday came from a Boris Bede field goal to start the second quarter and a Vernon Adams touchdown plunge as he ended up relieving the overwhelmed Manziel in the fourth quarter.
This defense was completely spent by the end of first quarter, spending far too much time on the field. Once feared by everyone in this league, the Alouettes’ D is now punchless and unable to compete. Much like the offense has been all year long. There is no pass rush to speak of for Montreal and the secondary keeps getting the pants beat off them. As someone on Twitter remarked, “I wonder if the Alouettes miss Noel Thorpe yet?”
If there was one positive to be found, William Stanback has been doing a good job in kick returns for Montreal. While he may not have the blistering speed that Stefan Logan once had for the Alouettes, he is still able to power through and get those extra yards to get his team decent field position.
This game was yet another bland, feckless effort from the Alouettes. And they had the entire world watching as ESPN2 featured this match in the United States. For all the hype that came with the news of Manziel’s start, the Alouettes were only able to count an extra 2000 fans from the last game. That’s right, a whopping 18000+ showed up to watch the trainwreck that is the Montreal Alouettes.
And they only did so because some people in this city are enamored with a celebrity’s name. Whether he could play football or not was hardly a concern for those “fans”. I’m truly curious to see just how many of them will come back now that they got that sick selfie at the game while wearing that brand new #2 jersey on Instagram.
Despite the shellacking the Alouettes took on the chin last Friday, Coach Mike Sherman has already stated that Manziel will get the start next Saturday in Ottawa. Now comes the beautiful hindsight that I mentioned earlier.
After all of TSN’s talking heads and media types spending the better part of two weeks verbally polishing Manziel’s cleats and suggesting that this was what the Alouettes needed to get back on track, those same people are now walking those statements back. NOW they are saying that it was shortsighted of the Alouettes to put in Manziel as a starter after only a handful of practices.
I firmly believe that the league and TSN put immense pressure on the Alouettes organization to start Manziel this past Friday against his former team, whether he was ready or not. I have no tangible proof of this, but I bet you in a few years that we will learn all this in a 30 for 30-style documentary. In a way, it’s plausible. The Montreal Alouettes are a desperate shell of a team. Desperate for wins, desperate for success, desperate for making money. From top to bottom, there’s very little that’s going right for this team. And in a sense, it feels like this franchise have sold their souls in exchange for a few extra tickets and jerseys sold.
It’s tiresome reading and writing about this team’s epic failures and general inability to do anything right. You can blame Kavis Reed for everything bad with this team and he deserves a portion of that, but let’s not forget that ownership does sign off on everything. Interesting how the more the Wetenhall family participates in the football decisions, the worse the team gets?
Back in the glory days of the current Alouettes (2000-2010), there was no meddling from ownership. Jim Popp was entrusted to do his job as GM and hire the best people possible. That’s why the Alouettes were a constant contender; people weren’t asked to wear multiple hats and talent was allowed to develop. In fact, a lot of the names that fans wistfully remember becoming superstars were found by Popp out of nowhere.
The reason why? Popp was able to properly mine that talent and put them into an environment where they could develop and be prepared to go. Nowadays you have a former NFL coach (with no CFL experience) putting out less than prepared talent because there are “paying customers” demanding to see something exciting. And the few talented players that you have are left spinning their wheels because these coaches really aren’t any more prepared than the players.
Numbers don’t lie; The Montreal Alouettes are dead last in points for and that has to fall on the coaches not having their players in a position to succeed. Imagine me thinking that we had an actual OC with CFL coaching experience this time around. Imagine me thinking that our DC had been there before and had the tools needed to take some talented players to the next level. Imagine me thinking that some fresh coaching blood on special teams would be what this unit sorely needed to finally succeed.
Oops. How silly of me.
So this is where we sit. And it’s where this team shall stay, because frankly I don’t see anything changing. It has been a calendar year since the Montreal Alouettes won a game at Percival Molson Stadium and it wouldn’t shock me to see another calendar year go by without seeing another win.
This is not a good team. I fully expect not to see another win in 2018, which would put the Alouettes in some very exclusive company. The 2003 Hamilton Tiger-Cats are the only team in CFL history to have gone 1-17 in a regular season. Barring some epic miracle, I fully expect the Alouettes to become the second team to earn that dubious honour.
Perhaps then the Wetenhall family will learn that they should not only stop involving themselves in football decisions, they should also hire real football people at the highest positions. But far be it for me to tell a family worth millions how to spend their money.
I just want to see winning football. That apparently isn’t for sale. But MANZIEL #2 jerseys are; get ’em while they’re hot!
Oh well, on to the next one. Thanks for reading.
GO ALS GO!!!