John Bowman happy to start coaching career with Lions: ‘the Alouettes don’t owe me anything’

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

John Bowman, who was named the B.C. Lions’ new defensive line coach on Monday, spoke with the Montreal Alouettes regarding the possibility of joining their coaching staff, though there ultimately wasn’t room for him in La Belle Province.

“We talked briefly when I came up there in October to be rewarded for my career, but they’re in a different situation. They had their staff, I guess, and there was no room for me. I want to make this perfectly clear: the Alouettes don’t owe me anything. I don’t feel entitled to having a start with them,” said Bowman via videoconference.

“I appreciated my 14 years there, but that doesn’t mean that I should be owed something on the backend. That’s not for me to say, but I’m here, I’m working for the B.C. Lions, and I’m excited to get started. Hopefully, I can bring somebody to greatness like I was brought to greatness.”

The six-foot-three, 250-pound pass rusher recorded 451 tackles, 134 sacks, 32 forced fumbles, and one interception over 230 regular season games with the Alouettes. He was named an East Division all-star nine times, won two Grey Cups, and should be inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame shortly after he becomes eligible.

Montreal fired defensive line coach Todd Howard in September 2021 and replaced him with longtime CFL assistant coach Greg Quick, who was already on staff. Quick is expected to return in 2022 to help coach a unit that recently added Mike Moore through a trade with the Edmonton Elks.

There are positives to starting fresh with a new organization as Bowman won’t be under the microscope in Vancouver the same way he may have been in Montreal.

“It’s less pressure. I don’t have to be looking at guys like, ‘Hey, you’re John Bowman, you should be able to coach these guys, you played like this, this, and this.’ I can’t say they’re not expecting that of me in B.C., but it’s not a daily pressure in my ear,” said Bowman.

“No matter where I landed, I was going to just give my best. If that’s all you can demand from players, that’s all you can demand from coaches. Do the best you can do, don’t do more than you’re capable of, lean on people, and that should be good enough to get it done.”

Bowman has never coached before but listed Mike Sinclair, Anwar Stewart, Marc Trestman, and a number of his college coaches as influences in how he plans to approach the profession. He believes his recent playing career will also be key for him to draw upon as he makes the transition to coaching.

“I’m relatable. I was just in those seats, so I know the way guys feel. I know guys are stressing, I know nervousness and anxiety is high. I’m just going to be there to help ease them, like, ‘Hey, this is what you need to focus on, don’t make it bigger than what it is. At the end of the day it’s football,'” said Bowman.

“I can remember every meeting just sitting on eggshells and I’m going to hopefully try to bring them the simplicity of football, bring that back to guys because during the years it’s become complicated. Just the way I was taught, just focus on the fundamentals, focus on your day-to-day work and the rest will handle itself.”

The Lions started a young defensive line in 2021, which included first-year players such as Josh Banks, Tom Bonner, Obum Gwacham, and Michael Divinity Jr. The unit produced a league-low 23 sacks, which leaves plenty of room for improvement under Bowman this upcoming season.

“Once you realize when you’re playing — and I learned this kinda during my way — you’re playing for something bigger than you, one bump can affect the whole chain, that kind of thing, you tend to dig in deeper and play for a bigger purpose,” said Bowman. “There’s some young talented guys on [B.C.’s] D-line and I’m excited to get to work with them.”

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.