Alouettes continue their deep, dark spiral downwards

I took my dad to the Alouettes game on Friday night. The home opener. A chance to forget everything that occurred last year, and even on the road in Week 1. It was a beautiful night in Montreal, the kind of summer evening that makes you glad to be outside and among friends or family, in a festive atmosphere. Only, Molson Stadium on this night was filled more with gasps, swearing and sobering disappointment, as the visiting Winnipeg Blue Bombers won 56-10.

The Montreal Alouettes, once the organization of the likes of Etcheverry, Dalla Riva, Wade, Calvillo, Pringle and Cahoon, has now become the joke of the CFL. It went from having stable ownership and quality coaches like Price, Ritchie, Matthews and Trestman, to being led by the son of the owner who’s stuck in his dad’s shadow, desperately trying to carve out his own legacy, with bumbling head coach after bumbling head coach.

In what symbolized the disappointment that was about to come, the PA announcer began the countdown to the pregame festivities for the home opener, normally an exciting, hyped up moment that the crowd eats up; a chance to start the season right. But just like the impending lacklustre effort, the in-game team flashed the starting defensive lineup on the screen and went right into the national anthem. That’s it. No run-out for each player. No introduction for any offensive star like Tyrell Sutton or Ernest Jackson. No salute to the coach or mention of the injured John Bowman, a guy who decided at the appreciation of the diehard supporters, to come back for one more season.

And then came the beating. No pressure on the opposing quarterback. Seven penalties committed in the first half alone. Zero protection for Drew Willy and zero escapability by Willy. The game was over before it began.

By the half, the team was losing 34-7 and most of the aging fan base was exiting the stadium.

It’s a sad, sad state of affairs for a franchise that hasn’t been this irrelevant on the Montreal landscape since it played in front of small crowds at the Olympic Stadium, upon its return in 1996.

I’m not sure if it’s a matter of arrogance on the part of GM Kavis Reed, or a lack of football acumen by acting owner Andrew Wetenhall, but this team keeps finding a way to sink lower than the week before. Make it 13 straight losses now for the Als.

Is it too early to say that the players have quit on coach Mike Sherman? Tough to answer. It cannot have gone over well that Sherman wasn’t even involved in the offseason program initially, as he finished his commitment to another football league.

I don’t know where Montreal goes from here. I am afraid that the team will play in front of dwindling crowds the rest of the way. No one wants to endure the frustration of watching turnovers, sacks against and complete futility on offence.

You can’t help but wonder why the Alouettes couldn’t come up with one viable, exciting quarterback prospect who could scramble out of trouble when the offensive line is porous. Someone who could heave it deep when the opportunity arises. In a quarterback-driven league the Alouettes are trying to shoot pool with rope.

Competing in a sports landscape where the Impact are not headed to the postseason and where the Canadiens are currently nothing to write home about, the Alouettes are irrelevant – and that’s really saying something.

Matthew Ross

Matthew Ross

Matthew Ross is a radio host on TSN 690 Montreal and has contributed to the Montreal Gazette, and He's a native Montrealer and misses watching Anthony Calvillo just like everyone else.
Matthew Ross
Matthew Ross
About Matthew Ross (27 Articles)
Matthew Ross is a radio host on TSN 690 Montreal and has contributed to the Montreal Gazette, and He's a native Montrealer and misses watching Anthony Calvillo just like everyone else.

62 Comments on Alouettes continue their deep, dark spiral downwards

  1. IMO one of the worse CFL games played in a while. ALS without any leadership on field. Many good players but all disconnected it seems. The QB situation has not improved one iota. Almost embarrassing offense to watch. TSN commentators gave many hints about the players who will “stick around”. Wow changes required ASAP.

    • Often, but not always, that leadership is in the hands of the quarterback. Cato got drummed out of the league attempting to end the Duron Chaos and provide that leadership. And Drew Willy and Jeff Matthews couldn’t lead a marching band.

      And that’s the thing: on paper the Als should have a great defence. And we have a pretty packed and talented receiver corp. A great RB in Sutton. Not sure about the oline, because if they don’t give Willy 10 seconds/play, he can’t get the ball away.

      One position seperates this team from at least not staring 0-18 in the face. We knew it going into the season, just as we knew Durant was a washout the season before; just as we knew Glenn and Cato needed an oline the season before that.

      This time it’s “no quarterback”. And it may well end this team, once and for all. What are any of them: Wetenhalls, Reed or Sherman thinking? It’s maddening, and after every completely failed season, and fans say “we told you that wasn’t going to work” they start talkng about “hindsight” and such nonsense.

      How about some foresight? We could see this season coming a mile away. Something’s definitely rotten in the state of the Montreal Alouettes.

  2. Blackhawk89 // June 23, 2018 at 9:54 am //

    If Halifax gets a team it might be the 9th and not the 10th

  3. CFL lover // June 23, 2018 at 10:08 am //

    See my comments on Hodge’s piece on the game. I also watched the entire debacle, what can I say I’m a true CFL fan. it was a full on nightmare. Matthew I completely agree with you Andrew Wetenhall is the primary reason this franchise is where it is. I shudder to think where his inept stewardship will lead this team. As for Reed and now Sherman, nice and decent men no doubt but completely incompetent in their respective roles.

  4. Best CFL Fan // June 23, 2018 at 10:23 am //

    Andrew W when interviewed said that he had a great team. You can’t ever improve when the boss is oblivious to the obvious. He needs to acknowledge there’s a problem so they can go ahead and fix it.


    “come up with one viable, exciting quarterback prospect who could scramble out of trouble when the offensive line is porous”
    I don’t think Sherman realizes this is a must in CAN game. While I realize Pipkin was not going to be the complete solution, he is a really fast runner. Teams can do very well in CFL when they have 2 different style QBs and the defence cannot prepare for both. Keeping Pipkin and a pkg for him would have been much better than signing Matthews who has a very similar skill set to Willy.

    • Skill set. Skill set you say? What skill? The “deer in the headlights” kind of skill of a Free Willy? The magical flying feet of a Matthews?

      They seem to be looking for another flat-footed Calvillo. A formula that worked so well, we won 3 out of the 8 Grey Cups we managed to get to. Pass.

      We need new ownership. That much is clear. Just STOP THE PAIN. For God’s sake!

  5. Did you hear the Allouette coach’s comments at half time ? This guy doesn’t understand the Canadian game

    Good luck Montreal

  6. I, like all CFL fans, feel really bad about what the Alouettes have become.

  7. Montreal could be the worst team in cfl history, they have no bite, no real leadership, no good coach, time to start from scratch this team could easily go 0-18 if they continue with the scrub willy at qb who just stands there and never moves.6

  8. Maybe they should Dress Laval in there place

  9. Why is my comment awaiting moderation?

    • Cat Fan // June 25, 2018 at 9:25 am //

      Same random reason that lots of mine, with no swearing or abuse have been put in to “Awaiting Moderation” limbo.

      (Never had one emerge from limbo … )

      If I could figure it out, I would tell you but it makes no sense so all I can say is that it is likely not you or what you said.

  10. There’s no swearing whatsoever. It’s simply a longish narrowing of focus on the one element that has destroyed this team: AC’s refusal to leave the field so out backups could develop.

    So now you’re deciding what content is appropriate “football talk”. Sick dudes.

  11. Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    This is going to be unpopular, but here goes:

    For most of his career, Anthony Calvillo protected his position on the team through one, very effective means: nobody else got to play quarterback. For the final few years of his career, as it became obvious (to me at least) that the calls for him to play on for “another ten years” quinoa or not, were a fans fantasy. AC was slowing down (if that was possible). His accuracy was faltering.

    And yet, and this speaks also to GM Jim Popp’s impenetrable decision to give Marc Trestman complete control over who played quarterback, whatever backups we had (cannon armed, insanely gifted runner Adrian “quarterback of the future” McPherson, to name only one) Calvillo dominated playing time.

    When even lightweights like Rod Black would regularly ask why the Alouettes weren’t gving their backups ANY playing time, even when up or down by 30+ points, you KNEW there was a problem.

    And of course, the problem was that without sufficient playing time, Alouettes’ backup quarterbacks weren’t developing at a rate sufficient for the team, OR the players themselves.

    The year Calvillo fell, on a hit by Rickey Foley, Adrian McPherson had abandoned his CFL dreams of being a starting quarterback, to pursue opportunities that would allow him to grow, and play. While it’s generally not well known, McPherson went on to set several QB records in Arena Ball, before finally retiring to a job as trainer.

    But ever since, the Alouettes have been suffering the snowball effects of not having developed a proper replacement for their ageing quarterback. The quarterback carousel has been spinning ever faster, because of Calvillo’s original hogging of the field, and in no small measure because of Calvillo’s incompetence as a coach, especially OC.

    As a 50+ year, 3rd generation Alouettes fan, I resented Calvillo before Trestman. Most people forget AC was stuck with a 1-5 Grey Cup record at the time, and a lot of fans were screaming for his head. The Trestman years brought the team, and the city 2 Cups. Nobody should ever undervalue that.

    But Trestman and Calvillo also used each other, sometimes to the exclusion of all else: especially to the exclusion of the crucial question of quarterback succession and the future of this team. AC got all those passing records, accumulating yards every game, regardless of the context, at the exclusion of actually giving playing time to up and coming pivots. Trestan got to be the “Calvillo Whisperer” who coached the world’s all time leading pro football passer: an small accomplishment he parlayed into a HC job for the Chicago Bears.

    But when Trestman left down for his new future, and Calvillo retired, and then came back to “finish the job” on the team that gave him so much, the city and fans were left with a succession of quarterbacks, young and old, who were either disinterested in anything but their own egos (Troy Smith) or just on the wrong side of talented to actually do anything positive for the team.

    And then there was Rakeem Cato: the quarterback whos career was detroyed by his oline (there’s a special place in hell for Jacob Ruby IMO) by his ill advised challenging of Calvillo and Schonert (no matter how right he was about their incompetence tanking his career) and perhaps the most obnoxious element to ever plague this league (Duron Carter).

    There are so many stories to tell along this path we seem to be on: to the complete dissolution of this franchise. But whenever anyone waxes poetical about Anthony Calvillo, and the perplexing fact that we “never managed to replace him” my eyes begin to twitch uncontrollably, and I’m one frustration away from bellowing at my monitor.

    I love this team. So did my father. So did my grandfather. What’s been done, and who’s done it deserves to be chronicled in a book, or a sports investigative journalism special. If such things exist. Still. As this thing continues to crumble, I KNOW who’s primarily to blame. No question.

    • Great post – I don’t follow the Als very closely so that was super interesting.

    • CFL lover // June 23, 2018 at 12:36 pm //

      Great read Nostre.

      Sam the rifle, Prince Hal, Red O’Quinn, Herb Trawick, George Dixon, Dan Yochum, Mike Pringle, Dickie Harris, Widger et al, and great Canadians such as Evanshen, Dalla Riva & Cahoon. The sad song “Where have you gone Mrs. Robinson” keeps drifting into my consciousness….

    • I would challenge a few of your statements by pointing out that three QBs who should winning potential were run out of town. Crompton did nothing but win games (may not have looked pretty doing so, but he won) and after he was hurt was never given a look again. Remember they had a guy named Brandon Bridge and they sent him packing because of a few pennies. And, didn’t Vernon Adams win his firs three starts (in a row) behind the same o-line you blame for Cato only to be sent on to the next team (the same one that Bridge went to).

      My point is that somehow your opening premise of blaming Calvillo has nothing to do with this situation. Crompton was probably not the solution but deserved another chance. Bridge or Adams probably were elements of the solution.

      • Cat Fan // June 25, 2018 at 9:33 am //

        If the powers that be in Montreal bother to look around – I understand Adams is available.

        I see your point that it wasn’t Calvillo’s decision – but he could have suggested resting in some of the blowout games.

    • You’re funny. Calvillo made decisions on whether or not his backups got any playing time? OK, sure. He told his coaches what to do, and they were compelled to listen. Because he was Calvillo. The One Who Shall Be Obeyed.

      It must have been so painful to be an Alouettes fan these past 20 years, with all the winning and the Grey Cups.

  12. Purrfect // June 23, 2018 at 11:20 am //

    Clearly the Als need to hire (diar)area 51 to solve all their problems

  13. Bring back our Als // June 23, 2018 at 12:08 pm //

    Can’t believe I wasted my money on time on this mess, looking forward to the julY 6th game. Maybe be they will have a QB who can throw more than 5 yards and move a bit. And more importantly give Sutton the ball more

  14. RiderPrider77 // June 23, 2018 at 12:15 pm //

    Really good piece. Very sad and concerning to observe this downward spiral

  15. Scottsask // June 23, 2018 at 12:29 pm //

    Nostre, your post was one of the best i’ve ever seen in this site.

  16. Scottsask // June 23, 2018 at 12:34 pm //

    Whatever happened to Rakeem Cato anyway? I can’t believe he wasn’t given a chance somewhere in this league. I just find it so hard to believe when a team thinks that Drew Willy is a viable option as a starting qb.

    • He was cut from his Arena Football team for cursing his HC in front of his teammates AFTER A WIN. It was so ugly that the team cut him and brought in a local amateur QB and then went on and won the championship. Cato had one of the best and most accurate arm. I’ve ever seen. But the guy has mental illness issues.

  17. T Chapman // June 23, 2018 at 12:40 pm //

    Since the departure of AC, they literally have the task of a major re-build which is no easy feat.

    Against Winnipeg, Willy was pummeled and/or forced to throw away the entire game, and kicker/punter Bede struggled.

    They’re gonna have to take advantage of bringing in some of the bigger names recently released following exhibition season. Some of these players may be older (ie- Owens, Bagg) yet they’d also provide some leadership. Others (ie- Bakari Grant, Demond Washingon) could help add some depth.

    • Cat Fan // June 25, 2018 at 9:42 am //

      Maybe they need a rebuild *this* year but when AC retired – they still had a great defense.

      I also wonder how they would have fared if Thorpe had been promoted to HC but that didn’t happen.

      As for taking advantage of what’s out there – bring in a QB that can scramble and/or fix the O line.

  18. We had kahari jones as our offensive coordinator in bc. Watching Drew Willy is like watching John Jennings last season. Actually, the whole offense seemed to have the same issue s Montreal o is having this year. Also, the new head coach needs time to learn the Canadian game. I think things will get better in Montreal. Give it a bit of time.

    • No … Khari gets a bad rap. Think Jennings the year before or Lulay last year. Suitor suggested pretty strongly (in the BC game last week) that Wally had clipped Jones’ play calling wings a bit for some reason and he was required to try and make the Williams’ thing work (which was just a bad fit). The offence looked really good last season before Lulay got hurt and Williams was forced into the lineup in place of Moore. Something was going on between Khari and Wally which likely explains him being fired at the end of the year.

      The Khari Jones offence put up 7000 yards in 2016. Give him a QB to work with, decent receivers, and a decent o-line and he’s a more than competent OC. The only thing MTL has going for it is a running back.

  19. When the Als have players like Henoc Muamba & #23 on defense laughing on the field having a good time being down by 46 points then they have a big problem. The Als may have more talent on the defensive side of the ball but they aren’t a team. Guys are playing for a paycheque & not for anything else. When it’s all about them & not about the ream that is a problem. Muamba to me is Problem #1. Highest paid player on the team giving little or no leadership worried more about padding his stats then winning the game. For what he is giving the Als with his inflated salary?? Buh bye. See ya. Don’t let the door hit your backside on the way out.

  20. Just saying // June 23, 2018 at 12:49 pm //

    Drew Willie says, Bombers made the right desition.

  21. Pennyrocker // June 23, 2018 at 2:15 pm //

    The way Mumba played he lured ky after his performance he is worth half of what Riders were paying him.
    All I saw was a new name for Als All Losers signing here.

  22. Shawn Goldwater // June 23, 2018 at 3:32 pm //

    I hope someone else caught the ‘pep talk’ that Andrew Wetenhall delivered to (bemused, it seemed to me) players and a waiting HC… and the cameras. RDS showed it briefly. Did TSN? Very weird, I thought.

  23. Tom calder // June 23, 2018 at 4:12 pm //

    I have been a supporter of reed for his off season signings.But even I’m stunned that they are as bad as they are. Sounds like Andrew W. Can’t remove his ego from football decisions. Who else would hire a seemingly washed up 63 y.o. coach with no cfl exposure? But he’s a status symbol, by virtue of coaching Favre and the Packers. Sounds like Andrew can’t defer decisions of magnitude to his football people. Isn’t there a saying that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing ? But I suspect prime coaching candidates won’t work for the Ala traveling circus. The future and present scares me

  24. yycbanjopicker // June 23, 2018 at 4:13 pm //

    Nostre: this site should pay you for that post – very well written and thought provoking. Great insight into the QB situation.
    I’m a massive Rider fan and I am still licking my wounds from experiencing to Grey Cup losses at the hands of the ALs but I honestly have to say that I feel terrible for Montreal.
    It seems the ALS just can’t get their house in order. Why in the heck would Wetenhall and Reed opt to hire a coach with absolutely ZERO experience in the CFL? Did they (at least Wetenhall) not learn from the hiring of Dan Hawkins who also had a similar non-CFL resume? Contrast that to Hamilton who hired June Jones; while he had long pedigree from the US, he actually played in the CFL.
    Next time you hear someone with no Canadian experience say “Football is Football” it’s time to head for the hills. Or, is it just that NO ONE wanted to work for Reed/Wetenhall.
    I pray that Montreal gets back on track and does not fold as it would be a disaster for the league.

    • It is hard to get the house in order after you have burned it down…

    • Cat Fan // June 25, 2018 at 9:46 am //

      Jones also coached in the CFL with the Ottawa Rough Riders more recently than he played in the CFL.

  25. Starts in the trenches upgrade O-line is Bruce Campbell available whoever I don’t care the Als have an abundance of Canadians put some more American talent on the line to stabilize. I don’t care who you got at QB they have to have time Willy has shown the few times he doesn’t have three guys in his face after two mississippi’s That he can deliver the ball accurately both long and short passes give the guy a good o-line see what happens

  26. wewert3 // June 23, 2018 at 7:06 pm //

    Nostre’s posts are all the same. It’s always anti-Anthony Calvillo propaganda. Marc Trestman never takes out Ricky Ray in Toronto, yet it was Calvillo’s fault it happened in Montreal. In Toronto, there’s James Franklin who has potential. Back then in Montreal, there was nobody. Just because the backups play, it means crap they will be future stars no much how much mentoring or reps they get.

    When Adrian McPherson was a free agent and with teams needing a quarterback, nobody signed him. He went to the Arena League and was nothing much there other than maybe running with the ball. I hardly see how being a good running quarterback would be worth mentioning.

    He then blames everybody for the failures of Rakeem Cato in the CFL other than Cato himself. Maybe if Cato possessed qualities you are looking for in that position like intelligence, charisma, leadership skills, and a calm demeanor, he would still be in the league. GM’s don’t believe in him. Coaches don’t believe in him. Teammates don’t believe in him. Blaming Duron Carter, Kenny Stafford, and Jacob Ruby is just silly. After that live mic game where Cato couldn’t remember the play calls and blamed others, there was no way other CFL teams would ever be interested him. To show you what a big mistake releasing Cato was, he went to play indoor league this year and got cut after 1 game because he was a distraction.

    Nostre also blames the Als for letting Vernon Adams go elsewhere. Yeah, another guy who nobody thinks is a CFL quarterback.

    • Conspiracy theories are always worth a chuckle. At least it’s more entertaining than the bizarre CAL-SSK feuds that seem to overtake every discussion on this website and force me to stop reading.

  27. When you have players like both Westerman and Muamba, who are both worried about themselves and a pay cheque. I realize that they have short careers, but why would you want to go to a team with virtually zero chance of success. Watching them at last night made me happy the Bombers weren’t able to sign them. Westerman quit on so many plays it was disgusting. Plus he was good for his usual stupid penalties. On the Bennet QB run, he ran right Muamba, then if you watch, Muamba makes it look like a stroll through the park. Most players would be in chase mode, maybe a fumble happens. Yet these are the type of players the Als signed. I hope they can turn it around for the sake of the league. Montreal is to good of a city to deserve this.

  28. Jim Bob // June 23, 2018 at 8:42 pm //

    Glad to see Mike Sherman make NO EXCUSES for the Als terrible play. Everything starts up front as they say. O Line looks bad and QB Willy running for his life. Not many QBs will be successful until the OL gets fixed. Als blew it not going after James Franklin big time when he was available. Now they will only get a 2nd line guy or a recent cut from another team.

  29. Seulement un mot…..only one word (re Als): TABERNAC!

  30. It is indeed unfortunate that the Al’s will not likely match their three win total from last season…the Al’s will be fortunate to win two games. Without a doubt the worst football team in the CFL in the 2018 season..sad, but true.

    • It will be unfortunate for the entire league…

      • Absolutely right, the league can ill afford to have teams lose relevance in any market, especially in the larger cities where attendance is an issue. It’s one thing to lose, but if the Als get blown out each week, the fan base will crumble. Not good for the Als and not good for the league. Hope they can turn it around and become competitive.

  31. I believe Kavis Reed is the worst GM in the history of the league.

  32. This organization is completely corrupt and broken. Sherman will be shown the door or “leave of his own volition” by the time their first by week rolls around. Kavis will hand the team to his buddy Rich Stubler and pull Khalil Carter out from his hiding spot.

    Hanging on to Carter was a show of non confidence in the HC who fired him, it surely didn’t go unnoticed by Sherman.

  33. Very interesting and well written submission by Nostre re: Al’s QB woes… however… while the Al’s have totally mismanaged their QB situation from recruiting to talent assessment to development and designing an offensive system/strategy to suit the current QB… other teams have found QB’s such as Manziel, Streveler, Harris, Bo Levi and more… so I think the real problem lies with the GM, the scouts and anyone else who has a say in QB assessment and recruiting…

  34. Without an O-line, no one can get the job done. Willy had 0 protection. I think he showed some quality in the first half of the season opener against BC, but doesn’t have time to even get out of the pocket. Too much emphasis on defense. This is an offensive league, I believe teams can be successful with a weaker defense than a weak offence. I’m going to the game in 2 weeks, hope I’m not alone.

  35. It’s been FIVE (5) years since AC Calvillo’s career ended.

    Inexcusable that Montreal hasn’t been able to find a competent starting QB in nearly half a decade.

  36. Edward Leslie // June 24, 2018 at 6:57 pm //

    You’d think the Als O-line would be better than it showed. Xavier Fulton, Ryan Bomben, Phillip Blake and Kristian Matte are all veterans, who’ve been good previously. The lone inexperience guy, Sean Jamieson making his first start at Right tackle, didn’t seem to be the problem. Most of the pressure seemed to come through the interior or left side.

    Willy seemed like a sitting duck who got frustrated easily. Perhaps they should try Garrett Fugate? Maybe they’ll get lucky, like Winnipeg has with Chris Streveler, whos been great, and is an early candidate for Rookie if the year.

  37. Edward Leslie // June 24, 2018 at 7:42 pm //

    I understand your frustration.
    Firstly, I had my posts blocked for no reason too.
    “Comment awaiting moderation” indeed! It should say “Comment censored for reasons only we know and won’t discuss.”

    As for the frustration with the Als, giving up talented young QBs like Rakeem Cato and Brandon Bridge, and having no direction from the powers that be, I hear you.
    I’m an Edmonton Oilers fan! The Oilers missed the playoffs a record 10 years in a row and 11 out of 12 seasons!! They were led by the horrible Kevin Lowe for years. So believe me, I UNDERSTAND.

    I also suggested bringing back Cato or Crompton or trying to trade for Bridge.
    I was shocked by the quick release of Josh Freeman before he played in a single preseason game too.
    After not playing for three years, how could they expect him to pick up a new kind of football in a week? Clueless leasership in coaching, Management and ownership. Apparently no scouting either. Just pick up free agents and castoffs.

  38. Tom calder // June 24, 2018 at 9:34 pm //

    The Als management team always seems to know more or better. Other teams groom their coaches from within or hire the bright young minds within the league. But not the Als. They hire status symbols from the states who know nothing about the cfl: Dan Hawkins, Mike Sherman. They have outsmarted themselves in their arrogance and incompetence and betrayed their loyal fans

  39. Marc Tressman was the ONE exception. Hawkins what a disaster he was.

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