Monday, August 05, 2013

Jim Popp's mess to fix

When the Montreal Alouettes fired Dan Hawkins on August 1st, the term we seem to have heard the most was that the Als were now turning to Jim Popp to lead the team.

We suggest that it isn't so much a case of "turning" to Popp, but rather, having him fix a mess that he created in the first place.

The Montreal GM went against conventional wisdom in the off season, seeking to replace Marc Trestman who had moved on to the Chicago Bears in January.

Popp, hoping we imagine that lightning would strike twice, went with an untested CFL coach to lead the Als, a team that clearly is in decline from their halcyon days of the last decade.

Our Twelve Man short list of last January, featured a number of possible candidates, many of them not only with experience in the Canadian game but of the Montreal market, the eventual choice came from about as far off the grid as we might have imagined.

Enter Mr. Hawkins, well known in college circles and through his work in US broadcasting, but as the first five weeks quickly showcased, a man a little out of his depth in understanding the nature of three down football on a wide, long field.

His pained expressions on the sidelines through the first four weeks told us much about how big a hill he was pushing that rock up, add on the looming spectre of a legendary CFL QB clearly unhappy with the nature of his offence and the direction his team was heading and it's not hard to see how the over/under on coaching shelf life quickly changed.

The fact that the Als made the change after a WIN and well, what do you have to do to succeed in the CFL is probably running through the mind of the now departed Hawkins.

Such was the state of the Alouettes heading into August, that the GM felt he had no choice but to dismiss his chosen coach and push the reset button, looking to recapture the winning spirit that once was considered a given in Montreal.

Popp is now in charge, he most likely will be through the current season when the search will start again, providing he is still part of the Als picture by seasons' end.

There was much speculation in the off season, that Popp was going to be the one leaving the Als camp for greener pastures in the NFL, however, his head coach beat him to the NFL payroll, some may wonder if perhaps Popp's heart may still be longing for a shot with the league to the south.

The only problem for his ambitions however, the fact that Trestman for the most part parlayed the use of Anthony Calvillo's skills and knowledge of the game to buff up his resume, his replacement didn't seem to make the best use of his QB who on most game days is pretty well a coach as well, such is the respect he commands on the field.

The Hawkins' experiment, the latest in the CFL of a high profile name from the US not finding his feet in the world of three down football may prove to have been more than expensive for Popp, tarnishing his reputation as a good judge of CFL coaching qualities, something that execs south of the border may just make a mental note of.

The redemption of the Alouettes season starts August 8th with Popp on the sidelines as the Als host the Argos, the vow to the fans, will apparently be a return of Alouettes football as it once was known.

With a five game stumble through the early portion of the season, the one saving grace for Popp is that the east is such a weak division, that even with almost a third of the season gone, the Als could very well still make a run up the standings to catch the Argos.

If they do, the horrors of June and July will be long forgotten by November, or at least the GM will we imagine be hoping that's the case.

Some of the reviews of the Montreal turmoil can be found below.

August 2-- He want's to win, "Als' Brandon Whitaker says of Popp
August 2-- Als look to reboot offence after Hawkins firing
August 2-- Montreal's Jim Popp on Dan Hawkins firiing: "Hopefully we can get ourselves back to the Alouette way'
August 1-- Jim Popp to bring back the 'Alouettes' way as head coach
August 1-- Hawkin's has only himself to blame
August 1-- Als GM's luck runs out with Dan Hawkins hiring
August 1-- Alouettes fire coach Dan Hawkins after five games; GM Jim Popp takes his place
August 1-- Alouettes axe head coach Dan Hawkins
August 1-- Montreal Alouettes axe coach Dan Hawkins after five games
August 1-- Alouettes give coaching job to Popp after firing Hawkins

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