Montreal Alouettes will keep Jim Popp, three co-ordinators on for next season

Montreal Alouettes will keep Jim Popp, three co-ordinators on for next season

MONTREAL — Keeping Jim Popp on as head coach despite missing the CFL playoffs was mostly about bringing continuity to a team that has had too many changes in recent seasons.

The Alouettes announced Monday that Popp and his three co-ordinators — Anthony Calvillo on offence, Noel Thorpe on defence and Kavis Reed on special teams — will be back next season.

“The missing ingredient was stability,” team president Mark Weightman said of the troubles the former East Division powerhouse has endured since coach Marc Trestman left after a five-year stint in 2012.

Popp, also the general manager, took over as head coach when Tom Higgins was fired on Aug. 21. The team was 3-5 then and went 3-7 under Popp. They missed the playoffs for the first time since the team returned to Montreal in 1996 after a 10-year hiatus.

Just before Higgins was let go, they fired offensive co-ordinator Turk Schonert and shared that job between Calvillo and Ryan Dinwiddie.

Popp also stepped in when Dan Hawkins was fired only five games into the 2013 campaign. He has filled in as coach four times since 2001, with a combined record of 19-27.

Keeping Popp on is not likely to be popular with fans, but Weightman said it was the best choice.

“I hope and I believe that our fans will understand by explaining the importance of maintaining stability and continuity in the organization and in the coaching staff,” he said. “Everyone, including the players, told us the same thing: keep things stable.”

Popp said the team has the talent and the coaching staff to succeed.

“Everyone has a different position whether they want me to be head coach or not,” he said. “Everyone judges off wins and losses.

“I understand that. At the end of the day it’s to clean things up internally and get back on track.”

Injuries devastated the Alouettes, who had nine quarterbacks dress for at least one game after both Jonathan Crompton and backup Dan LeFevour were injured in the season opener. Seven saw action on the field.

Veteran pivot Kevin Glenn, a late-season pickup who played three games, will go into camp as the starter. Popp expects to have five of the quarterbacks in camp.

One who is sure to return is Brandon Bridge of Missisauga, Ont., who showed promise in his first career start in a season-ending overtime loss to Saskatchewan.

“One thing they touched on in the meetings was to come in with the mindset that you’re going to play and you’re going to do well,” said Bridge. “I want to go in with the mindset that I want that job.

“It is pretty crazy that seven quarterbacks played, but that’s how the cookie crumbles sometimes.”

There will also be a glut of high quality linebackers with mid-season acquisition Henoc Muamba, returning injured players Kyries Hebert, Bear Woods and Kyler Ellworth as well as Winston Venable and veteran Chip Cox battling for playing time.

Among the potential free agents is defensive end John Bowman, who ended the season with three sacks for a league leading total of 19. Bowman was healthy scratch for two games under Higgins but roared back with the perhaps his best campaign.

“I know I want to come back next year and I’ll leave the rest up to Popp and (owner) Bob Wetenhall to see if they want me back,” said Bowman, who added he’ll be looking for top dollars. “I’ve been the best defensive end in this league for the last eight or nine years so I think I deserve to be compensated.”

Another bright spot this season was Tyrell Sutton winning the rushing crown.

Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press

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