‘I don’t want to relive that’: Alouettes’ Danny Maciocia focused on avoiding repeat of ’05 Grey Cup hangover

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Montreal Alouettes’ general manager Danny Maciocia sipped his fair share of champagne out of the Grey Cup chalice, but his primary duty this offseason has been ensuring there is no hangover from championship libations.

The Alouettes were both proactive and busy from the moment the confetti was swept up at Tim Hortons Field, locking up the majority of their roster and making some key additions. For Maciocia, staying upright on the tightrope between celebration and complacency was all about correcting past mistakes.

“I had the good fortune of winning in ’05 as head coach with the Edmonton Eskimos, but we didn’t know how to manage success. In the offseason, we spent more time enjoying the 2005 victory, which led to a non-playoff year in 2006,” the GM told TSN 690 this week.

“That’s something that I wanted to avoid at all costs. On the plane (back from Grey Cup), I had this conversation with Jason Maas because he was one of the quarterbacks on that 2005 edition of the Edmonton Eskimos and I just told him, ‘I don’t want to relive that a second time.’ There are so many valuable lessons that I’ve learned through that experience, so that’s why we got after it.”

Maciocia was a first-year head coach when Edmonton captured the 93rd Grey Cup, knocking off his hometown Alouettes. What should have cemented his legacy in the City of Champions proved instead to be an anomaly, as the team posted just one winning season over the next five years of his tenure and recorded a single playoff victory as a crossover team.

After rehabilitating his reputation at the U Sports level with the Carabins, Maciocia’s unlikely rebuild of the Alouettes has opened a new chapter of his career. After being ranked last entering the season by most prognosticators, Montreal pulled off a pair of stunning playoff upsets to secure an unexpected title.

“I would deem it to be a culture win this year, everything that we were able to do. We, by accident, fell into this recipe that seemed to work for us last year, especially the second half of the season when we were able to come together,” he explained. “What we’re going to do is keep that recipe. Obviously, you’re going to always have to tweak it as you go through the season but we think we’ve got something that we can sustain over the course of time.”

With the majority of the impact players from their 28-24 defeat of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers still in the fold, the Alouettes will enter next season underestimated by no one. While some might see pressure in being the defending champions, Maciocia views it as a privilege based on recent success and won’t allow himself the luxury of resting on his laurels.

“I always say, even after a championship season, when you do an auto-evaluation, it’s ‘What worked, what didn’t work, and how can I possibly reinvent myself?’ That’s an exercise that we’ve done as an organization, collectively and individually,” he insisted.

“We spent the whole offseason giving ourselves projects in order to get better because we know that the competition will be there. They’re spending the offseason trying to get better too, so you just can’t say, ‘Listen, it’s copy-paste and we’re gonna find ourselves with another Grey Cup.’ It’s just not going to work out that way.”

Beyond the initial parade and festivities, that hasn’t left much time for smelling the roses of victory. Nevertheless, Maciocia swears that he and his staff were still able to savour the fruits of their labour.

“We were still able to enjoy it. We were able to share it with our family and friends. But I didn’t go downtown with it. I wasn’t on Crescent Street with it,” he chuckled. “You get to a point in time in your career that you can still enjoy it but you’re so much more focused on what lies ahead and that’s how we attacked it.”

The Alouettes will open the 2024 season on June 6 when they visit the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Princess Auto Stadium for a Grey Cup rematch.