Alouettes fire Schonert, promote A.C. to O.C.

Jim Popp; Anthony Calvillo

Turk Schonert was part of the solution in 2014, but it’s clear the Montreal Alouettes felt he was part of the problem this season.

Schonert was fired as offensive co-ordinator on Saturday, two days after the CFL team’s dismal offensive effort in a 25-16 loss at home to the B.C. Lions.

Former quarterbacks Anthony Calvillo and Ryan Dinwiddie will act as co-offensive co-ordinators, the coach and general manager Jim Popp said. Calvillo, the CFL’s all-time passing leader, will call the plays.

“After taking over the head coaching job two weeks ago, I have had a better chance to evaluate the coaching staff and how they best work together,” Popp said in a statement.

“Though we have had injuries and challenges at the quarterback position, we feel we should be getting better production on the scoreboard and better use of the talented group of athletes that have been assembled.”

It’s a second promotion this season for Calvillo, who played the last 16 of his 20 CFL seasons with the Alouettes (4-6). The rookie coach started the year handling the receivers and was promoted to quarterbacks coach when Schonert was stripped of that duty two weeks ago.

Schonert, a former NFL quarterback and Buffalo Bills offensive co-ordinator, and former CFL and NFL QB Jeff Garcia were hired as offensive consultants last summer to help turn around a team that got off a 1-7 start and was struggling on offence with Troy Smith behind centre.

They were later promoted to receivers and quarterbacks coaches respectively and helped turn around the season. With Jonathan Crompton taking over at quarterback, the team went 8-2 the rest of the way and reached the East Division final.

Schonert was named offensive co-ordinator and quarterbacks coach this season, but the Alouettes again have laboured to put up points.

It didn’t help that both Crompton and backup Dan Lefevour suffered serious injuries in the opening game of the regular season. Rookie Rakeem Cato took over as the starter, although he missed the home loss to B.C. while attending to a family emergency.

After a 2-5 start, Alouettes owner Bob Wetenhall fired head coach Tom Higgins and gave the job to Popp. The quarterbacks were taken away from Schonert to let him concentrate on play calling.

The team responded with a big win in Hamilton in which Tanner Marsh looked sharp in relief after Cato suffered a hip pointer. But Marsh was dreadful against the Lions, throwing five interceptions, fumbling once and passing for only 103 yards and no touchdowns.

After the game, Popp said Marsh didn’t get the protection he needed and that “as a coaching staff, we’ve got to be better.”

Schonert had been criticized all season for what many fans and media felt was uninspired play calling, although he had some strong games including the win at Hamilton.

Dinwiddie was named a rookie offensive co-ordinator in 2014 after Rick Worman, hired by Higgins, was fired during training camp. Garcia and Schonert did most of the work once they joined the club, however. Dinwiddie, a former Winnipeg Blue Bomber, was made running backs coach this season.

“I feel it is the right time for a change and best to give others a chance to deliver now and start the building process for the future,” said Popp.

He added that Calvillo and Dinwiddie “will collaborate, along with our other offensive coaches, in hopes to find a solution to our inept scoring woes and bring new ideas to our passing game.”

– CP