Cuts a-plenty for the Montreal Alouettes

Yesterday was cut-down day for all nine teams of the Canadian Football League. A good number of players were dreading that inevitable call to the general manager’s office because there was the chance that their football dream was about to die.

For thirty plus camp attendees in Montreal, that became their fate indeed; a handshake to thank them for their best efforts and a plane ticket back home. But in a very unusual twist of fate, there was another man who was given that same treatment. Some may even see it as ironic, as it’s usually this man in question who is often tasked with delivering such solemn news to these players.

The Montreal Alouettes’ first cut was a rather unusual one, as they announced yesterday morning that head coach Mike Sherman would be relieved of his duties. Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Khari Jones was named as interim head coach of a team that simply can’t shake the image of a perennial loser in the eyes of, well, everyone.

The official reason given for Sherman’s dismissal was due to his inability to grasp the nuances of the Canadian game in any reasonable fashion. There have been reports that there was discord among the players in regards to how Sherman ran this ship. And when you lose the locker room’s trust, you are often not long for the unemployment line.

I’ve often said that the success of former Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman was the best and worst thing that ever happened to this team. Yes, he did win a pair of Grey Cups and managed to wring an extra five years out of the career of Anthony Calvillo. But at the same time, it led to the notion that hiring a coach with no CFL experience was not such a big deal because of Trestman’s almost immediate success along with many people that have little to no clue saying, “football is football”.

To those people, I present the following names:

Dan Hawkins

Mike Miller

Turk Schonert

Bruce Read

All of these men, among others, were hired by the Alouettes in prominent coaching positions despite no CFL experience. All failed miserably when given the opportunity to help turn this team around. All collected stole paycheques, probably laughing all the way to the bank at having snookered the owners of this Montreal franchise.

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When current general manager Kavis Reed was given the opportunity to hire his own head coach in late 2017, he had a number of interviews with coaches that had CFL experience. Yet in the end, it was Sherman who was hired to lead this team, fresh off a stint of coaching high school(!) football.

This speaks to a much bigger problem, among several, here in Montreal. Head coaching gigs are few and far between in the CFL. What exactly is being discussed in these Alouettes interviews that seems to weed out the good candidates and leaves only those that, on first blush, shouldn’t be anywhere near consideration for such a lofty position?

This franchise has made misstep after misstep to the point where even when they do good things, it’s almost immediately overshadowed with a colossal blunder that furthers the view in peoples’ eyes of this team being a dumpster fire or trainwreck.

It really makes you wonder sometimes whether or not it’d just be easier to suspend the team’s operations until the unbearable stink of constant failure dissipates. But we all know that simply isn’t possible.

Like it or not, this team will just have to slog through and hope to stumble on success, perhaps purely by accident.

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At least in promoting Khari Jones to head coach, this team has a relatively younger coach that has considerable CFL experience, both as a player and a position coach. This may not be the ideal circumstance to land your first head coaching gig but Jones certainly seems up for the challenge.

There still remains some impressive talent on this football team and last Thursday’s pre-season game did show a lot of positives. If the Alouettes want to play the “no one believes in us” card, this is the time to do it. Because as sure as the sun will rise in the morning, currently no one believes in this team’s chances for success of any kind.

I turned in my fan card a long time ago but as a supporter of this franchise, I want this team to do well. I certainly don’t expect this team to win every game, but I do expect it to conduct itself in a professional manner. My sincere hope is that the players on this team can tune out the negative sentiment and just take care of business on the field.

Winning does fix everything.

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Enough warbling of the same old story. You’re here to find out about who’s staying in Montreal and who’s going.

So here’s a look at your 2019 Montreal Alouettes practice roster:

Quan Bray (I), WR, Auburn
Tevin Floyd (I), LB, The Citadel
Jason Hall (I), LB, Texas
Étienne Moisan (N), FB, Laval
Richmond Nketiah (N), WR, Waterloo
Elijah Norris (I), DE, Shepherd
Marcellus Pippins (I), DB, Washington State
Hugo Richard (N), QB, Laval
Michael Sanelli (N), DL, Concordia
Juan Tamayo (G), DB, UDLAP
Zach Wilkinson (N), OL, Northern Colorado
Enrique Yenny (G), K, ITESM

Of these names, the ones that stand out are Tevin Floyd, who had a fantastic camp and nearly had a pick-six versus Ottawa this past Thursday. Marcellus Pippins DID have a pick-six versus Toronto and notched another INT in his second pre-season game. Quan Bray showed some good speed in kick returns and also connected with Vernon Adams on some great plays. Global sensation Enrique Yenny provides insurance in the kicking game should starting kicker/punter Boris Bede become injured. And Hugo Richard is the feel-good story of training camp; the local product who yearns to one day be a successful quarterback in the CFL after much success with the Universite de Laval’s Rouge et Or.

These men are talented and will be ready to go when their number is called.

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And now, here are the men who didn’t make the cut for the Alouettes this season:

Dante Absher (I), WR, Glenville State
Zach Annen (N), OL, Carleton
Jeshrun Antwi (N), D, Calgary *
Andrew Bennett (N), WR, Regina
Cody Cranston (N), DB, Ottawa *
Jarvis Harrison (I), OL, Texas A&M
Kevin Haynes (I), LB, Central Washington
Jamirr Holland (I), DB, Tabor College
Larry Hope Jr. (I), DB, Akron
Jamarcus King (I), DB, South Carolina
Gabriel Knapton (I), DE, Wyoming
Maxime Latour (N), LS, Sherbrooke
Jeff Mathews (I), Q, Cornell
Chris Merchant (N), QB, Western
Alexander Morrison (N), WR, UBC
Shaquille Murray-Lawrence (N), RB, UNLV
Chris Osei-Kusi (N), WR, Queen’s *
Zac Parker (I), WR, Virginia State
Dalton Ponchillia (I), WR, Western Kentucky
Jermaine Robinson (I), DB, Toledo
Asnnel Robo (G), RB, Montréal
Na’Ty Rodgers (I), OL, Houston
Justin Stewart (I), DE, Central Oklahoma
Justin Strong (I), DB, Montana
Paris Taylor (I), LB, Washington State
Samuel Thomassin (N), OL, Laval *
Copache Tyler (I), DT, Yale
Andrew Verboys (I), WR, Delaware
Benjamin Whiting (N), LB, Saskatchewan *
Dondre Wright (N), DB, Henderson State

*= 2019 CFL Draft picks that will return to their respective universities

With no disrespect intended to the others, I’ll focus on some of the bigger names on this list:

Dondre Wright: Despite being a physical specimen that can play anywhere, Dondre got lost in the shuffle when Taylor Loffler was signed as a free agent and Ty Cranston upped his game to the next level. National talent is greatly valued, especially in the secondary. But this is a rare instance of the numbers game affecting a National player. Wright is still young and can contribute on any CFL team; he won’t be out of work long.

Gabriel Knapton: A bit of a surprise at first glance. Knapton is a veteran presence and a fan favourite that seemed to find his groove again during his return to Montreal last season. But this defensive line is high on the potential of Bo Banner, Nate Anderson and Antonio Simmons, who are younger/cheaper options for the Alouettes. No one denies Gabe’s talent and dedication, but salary cap almost always wins out in these battles.

Jeff Mathews: Training camp separates the wheat from the chaff. Mathews looked good when camp started and a lot of people in the organization believed strongly in this journeyman QB. But his less than stellar outings in both pre-season games sealed his fate. Had Hugo Richard not been the ideal success story to try and cultivate, perhaps Mathews could have at least made Montreal’s taxi squad. But keeping two QBs on the practice roster doesn’t make sense so Jeff became the odd man out.

Jermaine Robinson: Much like Knapton, J-Rob was made expendable by younger options that have emerged on this defense. Greg Reid and Tevin Floyd had some monster showings in camp plus both shined in the last pre-season game. Robinson is a solid roster hand that is a great fill-in when your starter goes down and won’t lose you games. But youth is currently being served in Montreal and they now have some real depth on the defensive side of the ball.

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Saturday was a tumultuous day for Alouettes Nation in learning of the dismissal of the head coach and learning who will stay and who will go home. But now the dust has settled and the real work begins for this team. There’s now 18 opportunities for these remaining players to prove their worth and the first opportunity comes on Friday in Edmonton versus the new-look Eskimos.

We’ll be back to preview that first game of 2019 here on The ALSternative later this week. For any and all news, thoughts and opinions on the Montreal Alouettes, be sure to follow me on Twitter.

Don’t forget to check out the Alouettes Flightdeck podcast, as Tim Capper and myself break down this team for your listening pleasure. You can find the podcast on Google Play Music, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Spotify.

This certainly promises to be a season like no other here in Montreal. Whether or not that is a good thing remains to be seen. As always, thanks for reading.

GO ALS GO!!!

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