June 2016 – Fundamental Truths

The Fundamentals. They are the litmus test of good coaching. The bane of ANYONE who’s played sports on any serious level. The first AND last resort of EVERY hard-nosed coach in EVERY sports movie ever made. The backbone of EVERY great team in history and without which NO AMOUNT of talent, passion or power is worth a DAMN. THE ONE CLASS DROPSON COLLINS SKIPPED IN FOOTBALL SCHOOL!!!

In baseball the fundamentals include keeping your eye on the ball, and hitting the cutoff man. In football fundamentals like holding on to the ball and NOT taking senseless penalties are key to ANY team’s success…or failure.

Yesterday’s 36-13 loss to the Winnipeg BlueBombers proved ONE MORE fundamental truth…a truth that may well stand as the “Trestmanian” theme for the 2016 Alouettes season: Coaching should be left to PROFESSIONALS. AMATEURS need not apply!

In TSN’s “3 Down” segment, when asked which of the two teams (Als or Bombers) would make the playoffs, Stiegal made things pretty clear,

“They’re just not stable in Montreal. You got a head coach who’s a great GM but not a great Head Coach, you got a defensive coordinator who don’t want to be there…”

Despite the respect “he” has around the league, or perhaps because of it, you could tell Milt was deliberately trying NOT to add,

And and offensive coordinator who’s NOT a coach.

The basic truth on the field in 2016 is the Alouettes SHOULD be a contending team. Last year’s lack of receiver depth has been addressed…MORE than adequately. EVERYONE is back on defense, and we have TOO MUCH talent at linebacker, if anything.

The quarterback situation will resolve itself on the field. Glenn will no doubt reveal himself as the mediocre (justly underrated) quarterback he’s always been. Cato, Bridge and Vernon Adams Jr. will quite probably duke it out for the starting job over the course of time. There’s certainly NO lack of talent there. AND with any luck the offensive line WON’T be the calamity it could reasonably be expected to be.

In a sense yesterday’s game went according to script: Glenn was his mediocre self, throwing 10 yd darts down the field. Cato was brilliant in limited action, and with the even more limited playbook tapering off to nothingness.  Bridge and the rest sputtered to a halt.

One brief comment: 2nd and 12, down in the 3rd quarter,  in a preseason game that’s more about evaluation of talent than actually trying to win. So what do you call AC? Bridge hands the ball off up the middle. BUZZZZZ!!! WRONG ANSWER. Please try again next time. UGH!!

Along with basic leadership, the fundamentals are the glue that holds a team together. Or perhaps, WITHOUT a clear coaching devotion that the fundamentals be the foundation upon which EVERYTHING ELSE is built…ANY team can come apart at the seams, regardless of the talent on the field.

If yesterday’s 36-13 embarrassment at the Bombers taught us ANYTHING, it’s that when those fundamentals go ignored, disaster can’t be far behind. EXPERIENCED coaches like Paul LaPolice and Mike O’Shea, men who have spent YEARS learning their trade, are steeped in these fundamental truths…truths that belie the Alouettes’ seeming current coaching philosophy, which reads something like,

“Hey, coaching is no big deal. Look at me…I’m coaching” “Yah, but you’re losing.” “Sure, but I’m coaching. See? No big deal.”


So, while Herb is right: the penalties, the mistakes, the bad decisions…none of this REALLY MATTERS in the grand scheme of things. It IS preseason, after all. It might be worth noting however: it’s preseason for the Bombers, too. THEY somehow managed to bring 70 odd players, many of whom WON’T be playing these Alouettes in the season opener, into a cohesive group, all pulling in the same direction.

Alouettes fans might be excused for assuming that their coaching staff (a Head Coach who’s REALLY a GM, who’s ostensibly there ((aside from his own rampant ambition)) because NO LEGITIMATE HEAD COACHING CANDIDATE ON PLANET EARTH would accept Anthony Calvillo as offensive coordinator) would do EVERYTHING POSSIBLE to give EVERY SEMBLANCE of competence, and NOT be outcoached at EVERY POSSIBLE level. That commitment was fundamentally ABSENT.

All of which is ANYTHING but reassuring, and FUNDAMENTALLY WRONG.


One more curiosity:

According to Herb Zurkowski, Rakeem Cato has “fallen out of favour” with the Alouettes brass. Now I could have told Herb that the day he yelled at Calvillo on the sidelines last year…oh yah…I did and he banned me from his twitter feed. Isn’t that against the Curmudgeon Code Herb? So it goes.

So it WAS a bit strange that although Bridge has all but officially been given the backup QB job…it was Cato who went 2nd in the Alouettes preseason game against the Bombers. The cynic in me can just hear Popp drawling, “Awl give him some rope and watch him hang himself…” Curiously though, Popp left the offensive line intact for Cato (from what I’m told), although Cato’s TD pass to Chandler Jones tells me not all the starting receivers were still on the field.

No doubt the concern over the offensive line, and how they’d play under Cato outweighed any personal (personnel?) grudges. It’s good to know that Cato is SO talented that this team MAY NOT be able to afford to lose him. That still leaves the issue of Calvillo’s unidimensional offensive mindset.  But this team has shown the flexibility to parachute in a coach  with the requisite skills…when needed.

There remains the vexed question of how many coaches will now be willing to work for Popp…the reigning Red Queen of the CFL.



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