Bye week turns into bye-bye for Alouettes’ Schonert

A football team that was once considered to be the benchmark that all others should aspire to has once again flipped the script.

Yesterday the Montreal Alouettes kicked off their bye week with a bang, giving offensive coordinator Turk Schonert his walking papers and naming both QB Coach Anthony Calvillo and RB Coach Ryan Dinwiddie co-offensive coordinators.  The abysmal performance of the team on the field this past Thursday sealed the fate of this former NFL coach and alleged quarterback guru. 

But truthfully, this move should have been made a while ago. After the first game versus the Ottawa Redblacks produced a predictable, bland plan of attack that any twelve year old playing Madden on his Xbox could master, I was truly at a loss for words. This coach had several months plus a full training camp to plan out a full scale offense and that was what he offered up?! He caught a break when Rakeem Cato was able to step in and post a convincing win versus Calgary. But since then, there’s been very few bright spots.

Yes, it’s easy to chalk a lot of the offensive malaise up to having a rookie quarterback being tasked to lead this once-dominant franchise back to glory. But it’s not Cato who’s was calling the plays, it was Schonert. And like the others who preceded him, it’s painfully obvious that Schonert thought this particular brand of football and it’s intricacies were simply not worth learning. Yet another American who likely thought he could steal a paycheque in Canada by attempting to pass off a half cooked offense because in his mind, the Canadian Football League is amateur hour nonsense. 

Instead of retaining the services of an experienced Grey Cup winner in Jeff Garcia, who turned a fourth string QB into a bona-fide winner and made clear that he wanted to be more of a leader, this organization waited while Schonert hemmed and hawed as he expected one of the NFL’s 32 teams to be dazzled with his “stellar” resume. And when that proverbial ship sailed and the chance to land anyone else with a morsel of CFL experience vanished, it was only then that Schonert, perhaps grudgingly, accepted the OC position.

Imagine winning a Ferrari, then selling it on Craigslist to buy a Toyota Tercel. Montréal, tu m’ecoeure.


So now tasked with trying to salvage this season are essentially a pair of coaching neophytes. While my admiration for Anthony Calvillo runs very deep, let’s not forget that he only started being a pro football coach three months ago. Now he’s expected to not only groom Rakeem Cato and Brandon Bridge and undo whatever befell Tanner Marsh this past Thursday, but now he alongside of Dinwiddie has to incorporate the entire plan of attack? 

I would also be remiss if I didn’t remind you all of the roller-coaster coaching career thus far of Mr. Dinwiddie. In one calendar year, he went from Quality Control Assistant to Quarterback Coach to Offensive Coordinator. And not because he was some dynamic prodigy, but because this team’s former head coach didn’t do any due diligence in assembling a competent staff. Dinwiddie was thrown in the fire and eventually burned out, at one point lashing out at his charges during a practice. Now working as the running backs coach, Dinwiddie may be able to deliver on what many believe he could always accomplish as a football mind. But has he himself recovered 100% from his trial by fire?

Like it or not, this is yet another band-aid solution to a very gaping wound. And while this change needed to be made, I’m simply not convinced that this will be the fix necessary. I know Alouettes fans are thrilled with the move and many feel that AC should have been running the offense the nanosecond that he hung up his cleats. But great players don’t always translate to great coaches and those that do certainly don’t do it in 90 days or so.

Don’t believe me? Remember Wayne Gretzky, former head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes? How about Isiah Thomas, former New York Knicks head coach? Better yet, let’s keep it local with Bob Gainey, former head coach of the Montreal Canadiens? All great players, all champions, all who couldn’t make the transition from elite athlete to elite instructor.

I realize and appreciate that Calvillo is a student of the game plus he has done well so far with the receivers. I also have faith that he will extract as much talent as he can from the young men whom this team has summoned to play quarterback. But expecting him to do all that and get this team to wins immediately is an incredibly lofty goal. And should he not reach it, will our beloved #13 be given every benefit of the doubt? Or will he too be cast along with the also-rans that held the dubious title of Montreal Alouettes offensive coordinator?

Trust me when I say that I’d be thrilled to see this ersatz scenario work. I will happily eat crow if this team finishes 12-6 to bring Montreal its eighth Grey Cup and it’s directly as a result of this makeshift coaching reassignment. But despite my wanting to see the positive in this, I just don’t see how it’s a sustainable solution.

Last year this team went 1-7 under a coordinator that was fast-tracked up the proverbial chain of command. Now that same plan will all of a sudden be this team’s salvation, simply because now the greatest player this franchise has ever known is on board?

Again, I want nothing more than for my concerns to be proven wrong.