For the second season in a row, the quarterback play of one Trevor Harris prevented the Montreal Alouettes from advancing to the Eastern Final.
Unfortunately for the Alouettes’ fans, Harris was behind centre for their team rather than playing for the other team. The so-called insurance policy proved to be not worthy of the paper it was written on as the Alouettes failed to capture the Eastern Semi-Final this past Sunday. Losing a listless affair to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats by a score of 23-12, the Alouettes left no doubt that this team was a not a playoff contender but rather a pretender.
Fitting for a team that “clinched” their playoff berth as a result of the inability of a Western CFL team to cross over. The Alouettes were certainly a competitive and fun team to watch for the first nine games of this season. But both Vernon Adams and Matthew Shiltz fell to injury and the Alouettes traded for the veteran Harris, who was mediocre at best as a member of the 2021 Edmonton Elks.
Under Harris, the Alouettes ultimately lost 4 winnable games with their lone victory coming against Winnipeg’s taxi squad. While his overall numbers in red/blue could be considered okayish, it’s painfully clear that Harris was NOT a good fit for this team and even entertaining the idea of keeping this QB on the roster (and paying his $300,000 salary bonus on Feb.1!) is a recipe for disaster far worse than anything Kavis Reed could have ever dreamed of.
While Alouettes GM Danny Maciocia has by and large assembled a strong team that has mostly lived up to its potential, this acquisition of Harris was a major whiff. Yes, needing a QB with CFL experience became an absolute priority when Adams’ season was cut short on Thanksgiving Day. Shiltz did prove himself capable in relief but Maciocia made the panic move to trade for Harris, simply needing the slightest opportunity to shoehorn this perennial backup into the starter’s role.
I find it amusing that so many alleged CFL experts were praising the move to acquire Harris, but were quieter than a church mouse when he turned in loss after loss. Especially to teams that the Alouettes should have easily beaten with their dominant defense and THREE All-Star caliber players on offense. Numerous injuries to the Alouettes’ O-line didn’t help the cause, but Harris’ inability to get rid of the ball and be mobile in this offense just made this football team difficult and even painful to watch as this CFL season winded down.
This past Sunday was the final slap in the face to this fanbase. The Alouettes came into the Hammer with a lot of bravado and even the guarantee of a win by linebacker Patrick Levels. Instead this team turned in their most pedestrian effort of the season; a feat I didn’t think was possible after the way they phoned it in versus the Ottawa RedBlacks to end the regular season.
The Tiger-Cats were certainly motivated by not only being able to host this Eastern Semi-Final game, but buoyed by the very real opportunity to be back at Tim Hortons Field in two weeks to play in this year’s Grey Cup game. This game started slowly for both teams, but all Hamilton needed was to hang around and wait for the Alouettes to eventually beat themselves.
It would only take one quarter while nursing a three point lead for Montreal to commit seppuku (the Japanese ritual of self-disembowelment). The Alouettes’ momentum went sideways via a Ted Laurent punch-out of the ball from Harris’ hands and the ensuing recovery by Julian Howsare to set the Tiger-Cats up deep in Alouettes territory. It didn’t help that Alouettes guard David Foucault was blown up by Laurent and Howsare en route to the quarterback’s grill.
It then took a mere two plays for Hamilton QB Jeremiah Masoli to find Brandon Banks in the end zone for the first Tiger-Cats touchdown. If that wasn’t sweet enough for the noted Alouettes killer Banks, catching that TD in the face of Patrick Levels had to have been the cherry on top. Banks gleefully let Levels know that his “guarantee” wasn’t coming to pass on this snowy day.
A quick Alouettes two and out saw Hamilton march down the field again and score their second TD. Don Jackson rumbled into the score zone, greatly assisted by a roughing the passer call on Alouettes defensive lineman Michael Wakefield to set up optimal field position. This game truly got away from the Alouettes on their next series as Harris once again coughed up the ball to this hungry Ticats defense and set up for a field goal to end the half.
In fairness to Harris, this offensive line looked more like a quintet of subway turnstiles as they practically rolled over to allow the Tabbies to maul their quarterback. Hard to believe that this was the same offensive line that garnered praise all season long for allowing playmakers like William Stanback and Vernon Adams to move around and gain yards on the ground. This past Sunday, the Alouettes were simply outclassed time and time again by this ferocious Tiger-Cats defense that didn’t just want to clip the Als’ wings, but also deep-fry and feast on them.
Despite an attempted comeback in in the third quarter where Harris found Eugene Lewis for Montreal’s lone touchdown, the damage was clearly done. Montreal would finish this game with an embarrassing FIVE turnovers and twelve penalties that helped to snuff any sort of positive momentum that this team would try to muster. Hamilton turned back this half-hearted attempt of playoff football by the Alouettes and truly made them look like a team that lucked into a playoff spot and nothing more.
As they say, men lie, women lie, children lie. But film don’t lie.
There were numerous reasons why the Alouettes lost this game. Simply put, they were not the same team they have been all season long. Hindsight is always 20/20 and it hurts to admit it, but when Vernon Adams went down to injury so did this team’s chance for postseason success. Personally, I do think Matthew Shiltz could have kept this team going once recovered from his injury. But it was obvious that this Alouettes team would rather lose with Harris than win with Shiltz. Pride goeth before the fall.
This team as it sat in the latter part of the season had spurts of success, but simply didn’t look cohesive. The decimated O-line was running on fumes, the play-calling on offense was uninspired and the defense couldn’t contain themselves at the most inopportune times. These were not the Birds of Prey but rather the Birds of Pray, as it would have taken a divine intervention for this team to find real success in the latter part of 2021.
These Alouettes should have been much better than what their record indicated. But adversity doesn’t build character, but rather reveals it. We saw what this team truly was as they limped into the Grey Cup playoffs; a ton of hype and swagger followed up by next to nada. A lot of bark, very little bite.
I think Alouettes Nation was sold a bill of goods and they bought it, picturing this team still as the exciting Cardiac Kids that dazzled everyone in 2019. But it ended more like 2018, coincidentally the last time the Alouettes traded for a overly hyped quarterback mid-season.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
That’s all for now. The Alouettes will now clean out their lockers and vacate the premises until 2022 training camp (hopefully next May!). There will be a postmortem for this team as they look back on the season that was and decide what steps need to be taken in order to field a team that can advance further in the Grey Cup playoffs.
Two straight Eastern Semi-Final losses cannot and will not be considered acceptable by a fan base that hasn’t seen a playoff win since 2014 and a Grey Cup championship since 2010. There is talent on this team. But some key puzzle pieces were clearly missing and smarter personnel moves have to be made when plans go awry.
Be sure to check out the Alouettes Flightdeck podcast as Tim Capper and myself recap this season-ending loss and start looking towards 2022. You can find the podcast here and on your favourite podcast platforms like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio and even on Youtube! Search using the key words “Alouettes Flightdeck” just about anywhere you listen to podcasts.
I’ll be back here on The ALSternative to properly wrap up this 2021 CFL season very soon. I’m very thankful to still have you readers on board as I attempt to understand and explain this football franchise for you all. First decade of blogging is almost done and I am looking forward to the next decade.
As always, thanks for reading.