This week might have been one of the busiest in the history of the Montreal Alouettes, at least in the last few years. But in announcing a head coach, there were a whole other lot of questions that opened up – and it’s only Thursday.
Throughout the entire off-season, it was expected that Jim Popp would stay the head coach – after all, he wanted the job and as general manager he would get to make the decision. However, when owner Robert Wettenhall released a statement saying that a decision had yet to be made, it raised questions and I initially thought it was because of Popp’s contract. Why would you let him make all of the decisions when he only has one year left.
Then came the announcement on Monday that Tom Higgins would return to coaching with the Alouettes. In the press release, Popp’s name was not mentioned nor was it expected he be a part of the conference call the next day.
The reason Popp was not part of the decision process is because he wanted the job himself. However, the Wettenhall’s said that Popp was not considered by them as they wanted to keep the two-person structure in place. They also don’t want a lame duck GM (and he will be that until he signs an extension) making key decisions.
I thought that Popp was on his way out before speaking about the hiring of Higgins. I thought it was a staring contest and the Alouettes made the first move and Popp would not be happy. He said the opposite, but there’s no question that Popp’s desire to take a job in the National Football League is the reason he doesn’t have an extension right now.
Popp was also busy as well this week, besides presumably keeping an eye on the NFL Scouting Combine. He traded for Larry Taylor in a deal that swapped fifth round picks this year and sent a conditional third round pick to Calgary. Taylor is the fourth player brought back to the Alouettes this off-season joining Dave Stala, Diamond Ferri and Jermaine McElveen.
That move presumably set up the move announced Wednesday night when the Alouettes decided – finally – to release Arland Bruce III. Bruce’s remarks about Missouri defensive end Michael Sam were not a reason cited for his release but you would be silly to believe they didn’t play a part. Bruce was not really needed once the Alouettes signed Stala and brought in Taylor. Wide receiver depth was never an issue for the Alouettes and in a salary cap world, you don’t need to have a big salary when you have other options.
Personally, I’m a fan of the Higgins move but let’s not be surprised if he eventually becomes the general manager of this team. He has the experience to do so, and knows the league. Ideally, the Alouettes will keep the Higgins-Popp duo. But don’t be surprised if by this time next year it becomes a Noel Thorpe-Higgins duo. It will also be interesting to see who Higgins brings in as his offensive coordinator.
Personally, I think the Alouettes organizational structure is strong and still headed in the right direction. But they are also planning for the potential of life without Jim Popp. And the Alouettes have shown more vulnerability than they have since perhaps the team returned to Montreal.