Victory escapes the Montreal Alouettes yet again

It has truly been incredible to watch this Montreal Alouettes team snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

It was a spirited effort at BMO Place but this perpetually cursed team managed to trip on their own toes yet again, losing a 26-22 contest to the equally bad Toronto Argonauts. Following the example of the Alouettes’ previous opponents, all the Argos had to do was give Montreal enough rope to hang themselves with.

In what has become all too typical for the Alouettes in 2018, there were flashes of brilliance and then a complete faceplant at the worst possible time. It’s unfortunate because for the better part of this game, Montreal actually looked like a competent football team for a change.

Montreal managed to put together a decent ground game, giving rookie running back William Stanback his first 100+ rushing yards game. Along with Johnny Manziel‘s educated feet adding a few rushes, it was nice to finally see what this team could do on the ground. Especially after the Alouettes traded last year’s running backs to the BC Lions.

This Alouettes team was also able to find the end zone on both offense and defense. Manziel connected with Eugene Lewis for a touchdown while Tevaughn Campbell managed to pick off Argos quarterback James Franklin and return it 37 yards for the score.

Statistically, this may have been Manziel’s best game as a member of the Alouettes. He went 23 for 30 and had 220 yards passing with 38 yards on the ground. Overall, he is improving as a CFL quarterback. Despite throwing an interception, he was looking more poised behind centre and team seemed like they wanted to play for him.

Add a pair of field goals with a pair of Rouges thanks to Boris Bede and the Alouettes actually looked like they may finally get that elusive fourth victory of the season.

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But alas, it was not meant to be. Despite looking shaky at times, Franklin was able to soldier on and keep the Argos in this game, allowing Montreal to make untimely errors. These errors led to Franklin plunging in to the end zone twice and gave Argos kicker Drew Brown the opportunity to make four field goals.

The final series of the game was a shining example of the ineptitude of this Alouettes coaching staff, who needed to score a touchdown after handing the 4 point lead back to Toronto. After starting just before midfield, Manziel managed a couple of passes downfield to move the chains.

But after burning a lot of the play clock, Manziel held the ball too long and managed to get rid of it by throwing it away. But that earned him an intentional grounding penalty. It was with :05 left on the clock that Alouettes head coach Mike Sherman subbed out Manziel for an ice-cold Antonio Pipkin, whose game action was limited to a couple of short yardage plunges (including one where he fumbled the ball, turning it over to the Argos).

As one would expect, whatever magical play Sherman concocted in his head didn’t exactly translate as Pipkin was planted into the BMO Field grass. Perhaps the Argos were hoping that in April when the snow melts, some new QBs will blossom in Toronto. But for now, they were more than happy to cement a win over the only team that was more hapless than they were.

The final images shown on TSN/RDS were that of Manziel sprinting to the locker room, not even bothering to acknowledge the absolute sh-t show that was before him. Naturally, people who despise Manziel and his mere presence in this league were quick to dismiss this behaviour of his as unsportsmanlike and disrespectful.

I’m certainly no fan of Manziel’s but if you decided that he was going to be your starting quarterback, would it not have made sense to let him finish what you made him start? This puzzling move to pull him for that last play showed a complete lack of faith in his abilities.

How can ANY quarterback have any confidence in the guidance of his coaching staff when they pull a stunt like that? The reasoning that Sherman gave in his post-game presser for this bizarre move was due to Pipkin having “fresh legs”. Apparently one needs fresh legs to get tackled to the ground while standing still in the pocket??

The fact remains that Manziel is 0-6 as a starting quarterback in the CFL and that any hope for him is immediately cast under doubt. No one can truly say that this coaching staff is competent enough to improve Manziel’s stock. The reality is that people will forever be trying to justify Manziel’s potential because this coaching staff simply isn’t good enough.

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But no one is going to pay attention to that. Once again, all the blame for this team’s woes will be laid at the feet of Alouettes general manager Kavis Reed, as it was he who assembled this lacklustre coaching staff. And you know what? He certainly has to own that.

In 2017, he was saddled with a coach that he had to pretend to support. Now given a chance to hire his own staff, he instead chose someone who never coached in this league before, hoping that it would be 2008 all over again. Heaps of praise was showered on Khari Jones and his playbook before this season started, but now it feels like a 13 year old playing Madden on his X-Box would make better decisions.

There is some good young talent on this team, but I know for a fact that even the most hardcore fans of this team couldn’t identify them in a lineup. And will these potential studs be given the chance to blossom and develop like their predecessors before them? I just don’t have that faith.

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The real tragedy is that even if you showed all of these coaches the door tomorrow, there’s simply no guarantee that their replacements will be any better. Because nobody with any sort of competence is going to want to be associated with this football organization.

Numbers don’t lie; this current administration is 6 and 28. But fans were asked recently to be patient and give this team a chance. If my math is correct, they had 34 chances to make something happen and could only give a handful of positive moments as a result. But yes, keep expecting these fans to be patient as you try to learn as you go.

The thing about patience is that is does run out. Many fans have already decided that they have seen enough and will stay away. You can replace these fans with the fair-weather fans that care more about the social experience than the football game itself, but even that is fleeting at best and is no recipe for long-term success.

There’s only two games remaining and it certainly seems like the Alouettes will once again post a 3-15 regular season record. If ownership is content with that, so be it. But I don’t expect too many people to continue to pay for it, even if the team will have snazzy new uniforms to fawn over in 2019.

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The Alouettes’ current malaise reminds me of an old proverb that has been told numerous times in various forms:

For want of a nail, the horseshoe was lost.
For want of a horseshoe, the horse was lost.
For want of a horse, the rider was lost.
For want of a rider, the message was lost.
For want of a message, the battle was lost.
For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost.
All for the want of a nail.

Simply put, if you don’t take of the little things, they become big things and you end up losing it all. The Montreal Alouettes desperately need a nail.

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