November 2015 – The Right Plan…The Wrong Popp-le

So what exactly IS the plan…this NEW vision we’re being sold? Marsh is gone. Crompton retired (apparently). Could it BE that the Quarterback Carousel is FINALLY grinding to a halt? If so…HOW do we get OFF??

As I believe I’ve mentioned, the Alouettes natural progression from veteran quarterback to understudy was interrupted during the Trestman “dynasty”. Playing Anthony Calvillo EVERY possible down MAY have assured records and NFL coaching gigs, but it did NOTHING to help our young quarterbacks progress in their NEED for on-field experience. The consequent VACUUM at the position can be felt to this day…and MAY be wearing on the loyalties of the Alouettes faithful.

The acquisition of Kevin Glenn MAY have introduced stability into the situation…but let’s examine if that stability is REALLY a good thing.

The idea is to start Kevin Glenn in the DinVillo offence, backed up by Rakeem Cato and Brandon Bridge. Glenn will serve as mentor as the young quarterbacks work on their CFL game, and put what they’ve learned into practice…Glenn ceding INDISPENSABLE playing time for the sake of their development. As Cato and Bridge progress…they gradually take over from Glenn and lead us to the PROMISED LAND. Sounds GREAT. What do you think Kev?

Dude…Your contract wa? YOU and the offence HUNH? Ya but Kevin you’re going to be mento… Whoah Kevin. Calm down man. You see we ALL know Kevin Glenn. Mister “I’ve ALWAYS been underestimated.” But let’s be fair. EVERYONE wants to start.

PROBLEM #1 WITH THE PLAN:
Jim Popp. ‘NUFF SAID

PROBLEM #2 WITH THE PLAN:
Glenn is ALWAYS going to want to start. Anybody remember Bellefeuille’s headaches when he started Quinton Porter over Glenn. OR Glenn running INDIGNANT from Ottawa when they acquired Henry Burris? Historic, hysterical hissy fits aside, Glenn has NEVER hidden his feelings about being passed over. Can anyone HONESTLY say Glenn’s coy hints about his contract sound like a guy willing to make compromises for the development of two young quarterbacks, and being paid as a mentor? Is Kevin Glenn the guy we’re REALLY going to trust with the future of this organization? Granted, Glenn is JUST the sort of mediocre talent that suits the role EXACTLY. Unfortunately Glenn himself has never seen things that way.

Glenn andPorter
Kevin Glenn, Quinton Porter, Marcel Bellefeuille

PROBLEM #3 WITH THE PLAN:
Anthony Calvillo as offensive coordinator. Truth be told, it was in the Argos game that I REALIZED something pretty poignant: the offensive plan that Anthony Calvillo used was the EXACT plan of attack Trestman, Milanovich and Calvillo as QB employed against the Argos years before. THEN it clicked. Calvillo was drawing on his experience. But WHAT experience? Was he putting into practice his years of learning under some of the league’s GREAT coaches? Hardly…as a rookie coach, AC was drawing on the knowledge of plans and attacks crafted by MASTERS, and molded to his skillset as a player.

The acquisition of Kevin Glenn was a life-preserver for Anthony Calvillo. One might even describe Glenn as AC LITE. And while some of us MIGHT be comfortable with zombie Calvillo plying his trade on the field…a lesser version of AC can bring little more than MEDIOCRITY to this team. THIS is unacceptable in the long term.

What’s more…Cato and Bridge are NOT the only ones with a HELL OF A LOT to learn. Naturally BOTH of their development’s will include learning to read defences and the subtleties pocket-management. But this takes YEARS, from most accounts. In the meantime the Alouettes will be doing a disservice to themselves, their fans AND the young quarterbacks if they don’t make their athleticism a part of their playbook.

Calvillo has little experience with this sort of offensive strategy. Despite his impassioned plea for patience and time to put things in order, might I humbly suggest the Alouettes acquire SPECIALIZED help with these specific packages. Just as Jeff Garcia helped Crompton and Marsh utilize their legs as weapons two seasons ago, Matt Dunigan, Warren Moon, Doug Flutie and Damon Allen are just a FEW of the coaching talents appropriate to the task of forming THAT aspect of the Alouettes offensive future.

Is there enough money in the till to hire another coach? Even if it means the difference between ultimate success or absolute collapse? As long as Jim Popp is Head Coach Calvillo will be FORCED on us as offensive coordinator…like it or not. As long as Wetenhall’s affections for AC have FORCED this FATE upon us all…the Alouettes owner MUST take steps to shore up Calvillo’s shortcomings as a sophomore coach.

Cato has given his own performance a D-. While I’ve ALWAYS agreed with Cato AND Bridge that QB’s are judged on their successes and failures ALONE…a LARGE measure of the blame when assessing a rookie quarterback HAS to fall on the shoulders of those creating and calling the plays.

There are SEVERAL veteran quarterbacks that may or may not be available heading into next season. Assessing Kevin Glenn’s suitability as mentor to our young talent is KEY to the future of the Alouettes going forward.

But the issue with Glenn goes WAY beyond character. This year’s life-preserver MAY become Calvillo’s security blanket in 2016. If AC is as incapable of designing plays that maximize the potential of ANY mobile quarterback as one might naturally ASSUME he is…assessing the play of our pivots is going to be as problematic as it was in 2015. And Calvillo’s natural predisposition is going to be to play the game the way HE knows best…and with characters that can BEST execute it the way that he did himself.

If history is ANY judge, Glenn WILL falter. After 17 years some things will NEVER change. If Cato OR Bridge relieve Glenn BUT are not armed with a playbook adjusted to maximize their potential, THEY will fail just as they did this year. Without SOME assistance with the playbook I fear that Calvillo’s tenure as OC will DOOM us to choosing between a MEDIOCRE offence under Kevin Glenn and an offence utilizing only 50% of the talents and POTENTIAL of young quarterbacks like Cato and Bridge…and therefore MEDIOCRE.

If I were Anthony Calvillo in that situation I KNOW what I’d choose: whatever seems most comfortable. Is Glenn more natural and efficient in the pocket? Does he miss less reads than either Cato OR Bridge? All valid questions. Ones that informed Alouettes coaching staff decisions all season long. But while THEIR focus was in blaming a rookie quarterback for HIS shortcomings, they NEVER had the insight to discover what a lot of us were SEEING: the Alouettes simply don’t have the coaching talent to put OUR TALENT in a position to succeed.

The BOTTOM line is winning a Grey Cup. Did Warren Moon win 5 CONSECUTIVE Grey Cups in Edmonton? Was Doug Flutie the Greatest CFL Quarterback EVER? THESE are the questions talents like Cato and Bridge SHOULD be forcing upon us…assuming a CHAMPIONSHIP is still the ultimate goal!

Looking at Calvillo’s record in depth, some interesting things popp up: in 1999-2000 under Head Coach Charlie Taaffe, Calvillo’s QB rating shot up to 108.4 then 111.1…up substantially from his career totals of 95.5 and his highest rating up to that point (87.8 in 1996). In 2001 Popp takes over as Head Coach and Calvillo’s QB rating plummets to 93.6. Don Matthews takes over as HC (2002-2006) and Calvillo’s numbers go back up, peaking in 2003 at 98.4. Matthews retires late 2006, and Popp takes the HC job in 2007. Calvillo’s QB rating for the two years is LOWEST since his 2001 season under…GUESS WHO…yup…Jim Popp. Trestman takes over in 2008 and AC’s QB ratings for the next 3 seasons are 107.4, 108.4 & 108.1.

It might be worth noting here that Glenn BARELY broke 100 ONCE with Calgary in 2013 (100.5). Meaning? As with MOST quarterbacks…success is often driven by who’s creating and calling the plays…and the SHOTS. Under GREAT coaching Calvillo’s success as a quarterback was obvious. Without the support of those experienced and talented coaches….not so much.

If Kevin Glenn was in his 20’s and HALF the PURE pocket passer of an Anthony Calvillo, there MIGHT be a future in designing an offence around the guy. Heck, I’d even APPLAUD the marriage of Glenn’s talents and Calvillo’s MIND…for a time.

But Glenn is 37. OUR coaching is virtually NON-EXISTANT. EVEN with all his GREAT coaches Calvillo still managed to lose 5 out of 8 Grey Cup appearances. HOW WELL does ANYONE think Glenn will do?

What’s more, assessing how GOOD young MOBILE quarterbacks like Cato and Bridge might become by how well they do in an offence designed by Calvillo and executed by Kevin Glenn…would be like finding out how good your hunting dog is, by entering him in a dogfight…AND as disastrous.

Duane Butler, Damon Allen, Mawuko Tugbenyoh
Duane Butler, Damon Allen, Mawuko Tugbenyoh

Who can deny that some of the most SPECTACULAR and productive plays by Cato OR Bridge in 2015 were of their OWN creation…on the move and using their God given talents? Check the Videos page if you doubt it. Imagine if WE took hold of the situation, CREATED a playbook that honed those talents into a weapon? If there is a better way forward for this team I’d love to hear it.

The list of COMPLETE two-way quarterbacks in this league reads like a CFL PANTHEON. Who can say if Cato OR Bridge will one day be mentioned in the same breath as Moon, Garcia, Flutie, Dunigan or Allen? I only know they’ll never get there unless WE try…and unless the Alouettes have the coaching talent to make it HAPPEN.

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