Hiring a CFL newbie as DC yet another risky gamble by the Alouettes

In 2009, the Toronto Argonauts hired Bart Andrus as their head coach and Andrus in turn, hired a guy named Pete Kuharchek to be his defensive coordinator. It did not go well.

The Argos finished 3-15 while Kuharchek’s defence gave up 502 points and both men were fired after the season.

I was reminded of Andrus and Kuharchek, whose name I had to look up, after Justin Dunk of 3DownNation reported over the weekend that the Montreal Alouettes are hiring a guy named Bob Slowik to be their DC. Like Kuharchek, Slowik has zero CFL experience and will be working for a head coach who is also a relative newcomer to the Canadian game.

That said, at least Sherman has one season under his belt while Andrus spent time after being hired studying how players got on and off the field in the CFL. But like Andrus, Sherman has hired American coaches new to the CFL: offensive coach Paul Dunn and defensive line coach Bert Hill were new to the league last year and, like Slowik, they’d been out of the coaching game for awhile before getting a gig in Montreal.

While football maybe football regardless of where it’s played, the nuances of the CFL provide a unique set of challenges that take some time and experience to adapt to and learning the ropes as a positional coach greatly enhances the probability of success. Slowik does have some solid coaching bona fides, including time as a defensive coordinator with Denver, Chicago and Cleveland of the NFL but he’s been away from the pro game since 2013, giving this move by Sherman a tinge of cronyism. On a related note, Sherman’s son Ben is a special assistant to the head coach.

While Marc Trestman remains the gold standard for coaches with no CFL experience coming to the league and having instant success but it’s worth noting that Trestman a) had Scott Milanovich and Tim Burke as his coordinators, both of whom had Canadian experience and b) Anthony Calvillo was his quarterback. Trestman has been spectacular with a Hall of Fame calibre pivot at his disposal and pretty pedestrian otherwise.

The best case scenario for Montreal is probably the June Jones-Jerry Glanville experiment in Hamilton, where to NFL veterans managed to make enough adjustments to get their team to the playoffs. They had plenty of old CFL hands around to help out as well.

The worst –case scenario is, well, Andrus and Kuharchek. Fired after that one season, Andrus has bounced around on the fringes of professional coaching and was last seen in The Spring League showcase that produced the Johnny Manziel sideshow last April. Meanwhile, Kuharchek never coached again in a capacity that warranted public mention.

Also, this:

Montreal has made a number of mistakes outlined in the “Don’t Do” section of the “CFL for Dummies” playbook: hiring an inexperienced general manager, bringing in an NFL head coach with no CFL experience, paying a king’s ransom for a big-name U.S. college quarterback and expecting him to repeat that success at the pro level. In that sense, hiring an CFL newbie to run the defence is very much on brand – in other words, it’s unlikely to end well.

Just ask Pete Kuharchek.

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