An ALSternative look at the Kavis Reed era in Montreal

And just like that, he gone.

The last guy who was the general manager of the Montreal Alouettes managed to hold the title for 20+ years. The most recent was only able to stay for two and a half before being shown the door.

The Kavis Reed era has come to an abrupt and somewhat surprising end. This past Sunday and fresh off a convincing 36-19 win, the Alouettes decided to make a change at a key position yet again. In 2019 alone, the Alouettes have changed owners, head coach and now the GM.

The move came just as the team on the field was starting to find its stride; with Khari Jones as head coach and Vernon Adams Jr. leading this team, the Alouettes are looking like a cohesive unit that is prepared and ready to win on game day. I said in my season preview that both (now former) head coach Mike Sherman and general manager Reed were on the hot seat and had to win big this year if they hoped to still be a part of this team beyond 2019.

So why would this team possibly make a move that could upset the order of things, especially after so much turbulence over the years? People have been crying out for stability for years, but instead the Alouettes continue to shake things up even more.

As further details came to light over the past couple of days, it would appear that this was a move that was unavoidable in making.

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Reports have been coming out that the CFL, who now owns the Alouettes, have been wanting to get rid of Reed for a while. The biggest allegation was that he was trying to circumvent the salary management system by paying some Alouettes players with money from other companies, thus attempting to avoid the league-mandated amount set for all teams to abide by.

There were also reports that Reed was charging personal expenses such as plane tickets to the team. Naturally, the Alouettes themselves are avoiding any comments on this situation. This team has operated under a cone of silence for years and I don’t think that will change, even if new ownership does eventually take over.

All told, there will be very few bright spots when it comes to the Kavis Reed era. From the moment he was hired by then team governor Andrew Wetenhall, there was immediate doubt and concern from all CFL types. Reed was serving the team as special teams coach at the time and now he was being entrusted with the football decisions, despite no previous experience in management?

It appeared to be a recipe for failure and the 10-30 mark of the Alouettes under Reed would certainly support that theory. Any good moves that were made were completely overshadowed by the more baffling ones. I’m not saying Kavis is 100% at fault for where this team finds itself currently, but he will certainly bear the brunt of it.

Lame-duck ownership and misguided direction led to all of this, but Reed has and will wear this mark of shame on him for years to come. And trust me when I say, that was perfectly executed by those above him. Kavis became the face for all of the Alouettes’ woes, on and off the field. Fair or not, he has been tried in the court of public opinion and every single verdict reads guilty, guilty, guilty.

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To sit here and list all of Kavis’ moves, good or bad, would take hours. But regardless of how you view Reed’s tenure as Alouettes general manager, there are three moves that he will certainly be remembered for. Let’s take a deeper look at them right now:

1. The Darian Durant trade

The Alouettes started 2016 with Jim Popp as general manager/head coach and Reed as special teams coach. It ended up being a woeful season and the team missed the playoffs for the second straight year. But there were some bright spots; Earlier in the season, Popp traded for the rights of a dynamic NCAA quarterback named Vernon Adams that had a ton of potential and just needed a chance to shine.

It took several losses and changes in the coaching staff, but Adams was finally given a chance to start at QB. Lo and behold, Adams proved to be a talented but raw quarterback. With a little fine-tuning and some more reps, could he maybe be that quarterback that Alouettes fans have been missing since Anthony Calvillo was forced to hang up his cleats?

With Adams in the lineup and interim head coach Jacques Chapdelaine (who was promoted from receivers coach) finding ways to win games to finish 2016 on a small high note, maybe the Alouettes were finally on the right track.

Then Kavis Reed was promoted to GM and his first major move was to trade for Saskatchewan Roughriders legend Darian Durant.

It was thought that the beloved Durant had fallen out of favour in Riderville with then head coach/GM Chris Jones and a change of scenery would be what this battle-tested veteran needed. But it eventually became clear that Darian was a jilted lover out for revenge, only to hook up with the wrong partner. After winning his debut match against the Riders, Durant struggled mightily in red/white/blue, completing more passes to the ground than to any of his receivers.

Couple that with a bland, uninspired offense from Chapdelaine and the Alouettes ended the 2017 season with Reed as its head coach and its worst record in recent memory. And where was Adams in all this? After holding a clipboard for a few games in Montreal he ended up, ironically enough, in Saskatchewan playing for that same Chris Jones.

At an Alouettes town hall meeting for season ticket holders in 2018, Reed admitted to the attendees that trading for Durant was a move that he should not have made as it cost the team the opportunity to develop a younger quarterback that could lead this team into the future.

2. The hiring of Mike Sherman

Reed took over the head coaching duties of the Alouettes in 2017 and had an 11 game losing streak to show for it. While he did have some success as Edmonton’s field boss a few years ago, it was painfully clear that Reed was not able to handle both jobs effectively. He stated clearly that the team would do an exhaustive search to find the next on-field leader for the Montreal Alouettes.

Several big names were available and fans began to wonder if names like DeVone Claybrooks, Mark Washington and Paul LaPolice would be up to the challenge of rebuilding and leading this once-proud franchise. Of course, many others wanted Marcel Bellefeuille or Danny Maciocia simply because they could speak French. As though THAT makes a difference in this league. Many worried that these men and others would not want to be associated with the failure that permeated Reed and the Alouettes. As time went on, those worries appeared to be justified.

We’ll never truly know what went on in those meetings, but the gist of it was that whomever would be the head coach would simply be a puppet for the higher-ups, as they would make the decisions and the coach would play with the hand that they dealt. As many coaches want leave their own mark and have their own say, this scenario was less than desirable and those aforementioned coaches would tell the Alouettes’ braintrust, “Thanks, but no thanks”.

So Kavis Reed reached out to a coach down south who had no CFL experience, but certainly knew what it took to teach the game of football. A man who had much success in the NFL and was up for the challenge of something new. Kavis Reed and the Montreal Alouettes introduced former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike Sherman to the people of Montreal. Immediately, there was a lot of questions; most notably was why no one with CFL experience wanted this head coaching position?

As Sherman muddled his way through a 5-13 season in 2018, one couldn’t help but wonder if Reed and his perceived ineptitude was the reason the Alouettes were forced into hiring yet another American coach with no CFL experience. Or was it seeing ownership sticking their nose where it didn’t belong and having no control whatsoever?

Incredibly, the Alouettes were content to retain Sherman’s services for at least another year. But at the end of training camp this past June, the Alouettes decided to put Sherman back out to pasture. They installed OC Khari Jones, who has experience in this league both as a player and a coordinator, as the next head coach. A move that has paid off so far this young 2019 season.

3. The trade for Johnny Manziel

When failed NFL quarterback Johnny Manziel decided that he wanted to continue playing football professionally, he knew that all 32 teams of the NFL wanted nothing to do with the man who spent more time being on TMZ than on SportsCentre. In hopes of reviving his fledgling NFL career, Johnny was going to have to prove himself to those teams by….. *GULP* …..playing in Canada.

As the Hamilton Tiger-Cats held his negotiation rights, Johnny hit the border and did what he needed to do to gain entry into this fair country. He showed up to Ti-Cats camp and football fans were in a tizzy, both good and bad. For every fan that wanted to see “Johnny Football” back in action, there was another who was loathe to have his overhyped train roll through town.

Manziel showed up in Hamilton, said all the right things, smiled for the cameras and yes, acted like a model citizen in training camp. All he “wanted” was a chance to compete, but he had stiff competition in Jeremiah Masoli and Vernon Adams (who was traded to Hamilton from Saskatchewan), both young veterans with CFL experience and actual wins in this league.

The hype around Johnny led to many #2 jerseys being sold and cries of “WE WANT JOHNNY!!” throughout camp and even into the regular season. But Masoli proved to be the best option under centre and Manziel became Johnny Clipboard, while Adams was given his walking papers. That in turn led to Adams returning back to Montreal, where his CFL career started and could possibly be re-ignited.

But football is a crazy sport and while Manziel sat on the bench at Tim Hortons Field, the Montreal Alouettes went through a string of QB injuries that only added to the number of names in the quarterback clown car. Drew Willy, Jeff Mathews and Antonio Pipkin were all bitten by the injury bug and with Reed’s hopeful free agent QB Josh Freeman bolting from training camp after a couple of listless days, Reed hit panic button.

He re-added Vernon Adams to the fold, but that would just serve as the appetizer for the main course. Just as Adams was finally getting Montreal’s playbook down and preparing for his return under centre in Montreal, Kavis swung a trade with the Tabbies.

For those needing a reminder, the Tiger-Cats sent Manziel along with linemen Tony Washington and Landon Rice to the Montreal Alouettes. In exchange, the Alouettes send DL Jamaal Westerman, WR Chris Williams and Montreal’s first round picks in the 2020 and 2021 CFL Draft to Hamilton.

Had this move been strictly for the players named, I don’t think Reed would have been roasted quite so badly. What sunk him and the Alouettes was the inclusion of those TWO first round draft picks. To sweeten the deal for a player that Hamilton wasn’t using and seemingly wanted to be rid of.

We won’t know just how badly the Alouettes got snookered until those two draft picks are announced and start playing in the league (if they do). First round draft picks are always a gamble and very few pan out to have successful careers. But the initial idea that you’d mortgage the future for a player that has a big name and little else to his resume is one that will certainly get you a ton of side-eye.

So Manziel shows up in Montreal, dresses for a game in order for the team to hype it as the debut of Johnny Football in Montreal to boost ticket sales and basically rains on Vernon Adams’ parade. Manziel’s fans showed up to buy into the hype (along with Alouettes jerseys with that infamous #2 on them) only to be sold a bill of goods. Cries of “WE WANT JOHNNY!!” filled the stadium, much to the delight of the Edmonton Eskimos’ players, who took advantage of the distraction and ran up the score for a lopsided win.

Manziel’s stay in Montreal was a short one and he certainly did very little to entice any NFL team to give him the time of day. Manziel ended up violating one of the terms of his contract and he was sent packing by the league. Interestingly, Kavis went on record to state that he was willing to keep Manziel despite the less than stellar 2018 campaign.

But Manziel was clearly not interested in learning the CFL game. He was not interested in being the next Doug Flutie or Warren Moon. Instead, he joins a miles-long list of NFL washouts who were expected to come up here and dominate, only to return home with their tail between their legs. Manziel went to the Alliance of American Football this spring and played two games there before that league went belly-up. He’ll surely get a chance to play in the XFL when it kicks off in 2020. And as long as people are willing to spend $100 for his autograph or to take a selfie with him, Johnny won’t be hurting for cash any time soon.

But now the Alouettes have nothing to show for that trade other than a warehouse full of #2 jerseys and a lot of “what could have been”. Mind you, the deal did bring Tony Washington to Montreal and he’s been a stellar piece of this offensive line. So that’s a small consolable if you’re in need of one.

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There have been other miscues, but not everything Kavis did was bad. He did bring in some top-notch talent this past winter and so far names like Devier Posey and Taylor Loffler have gotten fans excited.

Kavis brought Vernon Adams back and despite him and Sherman treating this QB like a red-headed stepchild during training camp, Vernon has risen up and taken control of this team behind centre. Oh, and is winning football games.

It’s still early in the 2019 season, but already fans are feeling renewed hope with what they see on the field. Khari Jones will get a lot of the credit for stepping up and being the leader this young team needs, but it was Reed who hired Jones as OC and essentially gave him a lot of the stars that you see in the lineup.

Was Reed finally hitting a stride after so many missteps? We’ll never truly know. But a lot of factors led to his hire and just as many led to his dismissal. As potential new ownership groups evaluate this team, it’s clear that the league wants to put its best foot forward and make this team look as appealing as possible.

Getting rid of what wasn’t working became the agenda and a housecleaning was likely going to happen no matter what. It just seems like rather bizarre timing; Something that has become all too familiar with this Montreal Alouettes team.

The Alouettes did what they felt they had to do. My only hope, as it has for some time now, is that the players are able to tune out the extracurricular activity going on outside of the stadium and focus on winning games. In a strange twist of fate, that could very well be the legacy that Kavis Reed leaves behind here in La Belle Province.

At this point, nothing else matters for Alouettes Nation but winning.

GO ALS GO!!!

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