Jim Popp steps down as Alouettes head coach

The writing was on the wall for Jim Popp to be removed as head coach of the Montreal Alouettes, but the real surprise was that Jacques Chapdelaine was named to replace him.

The Canadian Football League club announced Monday that Popp would give up coaching duties to concentrate on his other job as general manager. Chapdelaine, the receivers coach and special advisor to the offensive co-ordintaor, took over as interim head coach for the rest of the season.

The move came after the Alouettes fell to 3-9 with a fourth straight loss in Hamilton on Friday. Afterwards, Popp was given the game ball, and 3DownNation.com reported that he had worked his last game.

Chapdelaine, a long-time CFL offensive co-ordinator, will coach his first game Oct. 2 at home against the Toronto Argonauts.

“This team has a lot of talent; we have six games left, and we are still in it,” Chapdelaine said in a statement. “When I was coaching in B.C. in 2011, we made a run like this and ended up winning the Grey Cup.

“That’s possible for this group of players.”

The 55-year-old native of Sherbrooke, Que. became the 22nd head coach in Alouettes history, but the first who is French-speaking.

By naming Chapdelaine, who joined the Alouettes in the off-season as advisor to offensive co-ordinator Anthony Calvillo, the team owners avoided choosing between two on staff who will be vying for the head coaching job _ defensive co-ordinator Noel Thorpe and special teams co-ordinator Kavis Reed.

Andrew Wetenhall, the club’s lead governor and son of owner Bob Wetenhall, said the search for a permanent head coach will begin in October and “each of our current co-ordinators, as well as Jacques, will be fully vetted as part of this interview process.”

“A head coaching change mid-season is challenging, but Jacques is the right man for the job. Both Jim Popp and (team president) Mark Weightman played vital roles in this decision process, which led to a unanimous selection, and we believe Jacques will catalyze an immediate and positive effect as we try to make the playoffs,” he added.

Bob Wetenhall said: “Jacques is an excellent football coach. He knows the Xs and Os as well as how to get the most out of his personnel. We have six games left this season and are only two games out of playoff contention. Jacques is the best person to lead an immediate turnaround as we try and make a playoff run. ”

Chapdelaine, a former CFL slotback, has been either an assistant coach or an offensive co-ordinatior for 13 years with Calgary, B.C., Edmonton and Saskatchewan, winning three Grey Cups. He coached the Laval University Rouge et Or to a Vanier Cup title in 1999 and was head coach at Simon Fraser University in 2014.

Popp has been general manager since the Alouettes’ rebirth in 1996 but has stepped in to coach four times when head coaches were either fired or fell ill. His overall regular season record is 22-36.

In 2013, he took over from the fired Dan Hawkins six games into the season and went 6-7. Two seasons later, he replaced Tom Higgins after eight games and went 3-7 as the Alouettes missed the playoffs.

He stayed on to start this season because the Alouettes wanted continuity on the coaching staff, but was unable to coax consistent wins out of a team that has struggled on offence.

The team has looked in disarray of late. Last week, newly named starting quarterback Rakeem Cato blew up at Duron Carter and Kenny Stafford during practice over what he said was a lack of respect from the veteran receivers. Popp’s decision to trade veteran quarterback Kevin Glenn was also publicly questioned by some players.

– CP