So here we are. Alouettes mini-camp for 2016. Hope abounds and every athlete is like a kid when the snow melts away and it’s barest WEEKS before he and his buddies can play some pick-up ball in the frigid muck. BLISS.
Last season’s offensive woes have been addressed. The addition of Duron Carter and one or two of the HOST of receivers presently in camp, SHOULD provide the reliable and talented targets sadly and somewhat mysteriously absent from last year’s squad.
Hopefully the offseason “blowup” with Noel Thorpe won’t affect what was last season’s only strength: HIS defense. Keeping your defensive coordinator prisoner…forcing him to honour his contract DESPITE his expressed desire to leave WON’T do anything to lift anyone’s spirits…on a team that’s had it’s share of questionable moments over the last few seasons. Let’s hope that doesn’t fester as the team struggles to start the season.
The CORE of the Alouettes’ problems this season WON’T be on the field. A sophomore offensive coordinator in Anthony Calvillo has spent countless hours re-writing the playbook, and we’re all breathless in anticipation. And while a certain restraint is certainly called for (the guy needs to be given EVERY chance to succeed, after all) it’s NOT inappropriate to imagine just HOW those changes might manifest themselves.
Anyone who’s been hoping beyond hope that Calvillo might magically morph into someone capable of creating an offense tailored to the talents of Rakeem Cato and Brandon Bridge might as well skip this season altogether. Back into hibernation…and leave an alarm call for when the Alouettes do their seasonal nose-dive. Make it week 6…to be certain.
They tell us leopards can never change their spots. Quarterbacks are stamped at the very birth of their career: athletic, poised, reads defenses, can’t outrun a turtle…as BAD as Tanner Marsh etc. If they are fortunate enough to survive a couple of decades in this league, that stamp becomes a BRAND.
The very NUMBER 13 conjures memories of Anthony Calvillo for ANYONE in this town even marginally interested in the CFL game. Like him or not, Calvillo was a dropback quarterback with a gift for reading defenses and making quick and (for the most part) correct decisions. Calvillo NEVER impressed with his athletic prowess. On the contrary. The first thought that occurred whenever Anthony tried to run with the ball was: “DON’T…for God’s sake DON’T.”
So it’s little surprise that as a coach with next to ZERO experience in ANY system other than that designed EXCLUSIVELY for his strengths and weaknesses, Anthony Calvillo will naturally gravitate towards quarterbacks who MOST resemble HIS own qualities as a player.
There are a few MAJOR problems with that. however.
The first is the evolution of the game itself. Whether you’re talking CFL OR NFL, players are getting faster. Quarterbacks are under increasing pressure from linemen who are no longer lumbering giants BUT GIGANTIC athletes with motors that never quit. So while quarterbacks like Peyton Manning are singing their swan songs, it’s the Cam Newtons and Russell Wilsons who are beginning to take over.
With the Alouettes the argument over static vs. mobile quarterback is more involved, however. The YEARS this team SHOULD have devoted to developing Anthony Calvillo’s replacement at quarterback were WASTED allowing Calvillo and coach Trestman to pursue their own personal goals. And while the waning glow of Calvillo’s passing records and Trestman’s dubious success down south MAY warm the hearts of some Alouettes supporters, these accomplishments have left this team in an ENORMOUS hole. Unfortunately…SOMEONE had the GREAT idea that that hole needs to be filled by the very guy who dug the hole in the first place.
And therein lies the rub:
If Anthony Calvillo had cut his teeth as a coach, in Saskatchewan Edmonton, Toronto or (God Forbid) Hamilton…if AC had spent the decade after his retirement LEARNING his coaching craft, starting from the ground up under a variety of coaches in a plethora of different systems…I’d say GREAT. Welcome Home Anthony Calvillo.
But Anthony Calvillo is NOT a coach. He knows ONE WAY of playing quarterback, inasmuch as he NEVER played in ANY system designed for anyone else. Therefore he only knows ONE WAY of coaching the position. ONE WAY of creating and designing offensive plays. NOT ONLY does this make things a heck of a lot easier for ANYONE designing defenses to counter a Calvillo conceived offensive attack…it leaves the Alouettes with NO CHOICE as to the type of skillset their quarterback need possess.
AND THERE’S THE RUB:
Not counting Ricky Ray, Kevin Glenn is the ONE quarterback presently in the CFL who’s game MOST closely resembles Calvillo’s own. UNFORTUNATELY, while Calvillo was leading the Alouettes to 8 Grey Cup appearances (losing 5), Glenn has NEVER actually played in a Grey Cup. Glenn’s career has been so mired in mediocrity, that the Hamilton Tigercats were stuck for YEARS…known as nothing more than a .500 football team. Glenn is a cheap knockoff of a quarterback who LOST the majority of his Grey Cup appearances.
And Glenn is the Alouettes BEST hope for this season? He IS since there’s no one on the Alouettes coaching staff with the talent and ability to design a playbook for ANYONE but Glenn. That’s not only mysterious, it’s downright suicidally INSANE. Assuming Glenn doesn’t somehow surpass himself, how is ANYONE to evaluate the relative abilities of Cato, Bridge and Adams, given that half of their skillsets are left on the sidelines? Not to mention what that will mean for the fortunes of this team. The Calvillo Retirement Plan is looking more and more like cronyism of the worst sort.
Speaking of Popp’s network of cronies…RDS has stacked it’s CFL reporter staff with ex-Alouettes players. While this MAY provide insight non-players lack, there’s NO LACK of “mouthpiecing” and “brown-nosing” Alouettes front office dictates. From early indications, reading RDS’s reports from the Als mini-camp…Anthony Boone could be heir apparent to Glenn. That makes perfect sense. Boone is far less of an athletic force than either Cato OR Bridge. THIS means Calvillo’s inability to design anything OTHER than a classic, pocket-passing offense isn’t exposed as the MAJOR handicap it TRULY is for this team. So when Boone falls on his face, it’ll be Boone to blame. Obviously.
Another fundamental fact: it takes YEARS for young quarterbacks to learn the complexities of this game…to read defenses and distribute the ball. And while QB athletes run defenses RAGGED in BOTH pro football leagues, all the while growing (ideally) into a more complete understanding of their craft, the Alouettes continue sacrificing young talents on the altar of coaching incompetence. Still…
MAYBE Kevin Glenn will somehow find a way to raise his game from terminal mediocrity?
MAYBE some young quarterback will magically learn EVERYTHING a dropback QB needs to know…even WITHOUT resorting to innate athletic talent NO ONE in the organization has the slightest clue how to exploit.
MAYBE the combination of the LOSINGEST head coach in Alouettes history, a manacled defensive coordinator who knows WHEN to jump ship and an offensive coordinator who’s job is a glorified retirement plan…will SOMEHOW translate into Grey Cup GLORY for this team.
But that REMOTEST CHANCE is certainly NOTHING to come out of hibernation for. I give the whole bunch ’til WEEK SIX.