A new trend is emerging in the Canadian Football League and it threatens to eat the Montreal Alouettes, led by head coach Jacques Chapdelaine, alive once again. There isn’t a name for it yet but its the same micro-managing syndrome which prompted Jim Popp to continuously take over the head coaching reins despite the sub-five hundred results it brought. He could’ve just hung his hat on the tried, tested and true model of sticking to what he knows best: being the general manager.
Jacques Chapdelaine Is Wearing Too Many Hats
Popp is in Toronto now and blaming him is out the window. The fearless new regime of Kavis Reed and Chapdelaine was supposed to fix all of that. Everybody was to put their egos aside for the betterment of the team. Wrong!
Instead, Als fans get an anemic offence in the opening three games prior to their Friday night Friday night upset win over Calgary. It took the Alouettes four weeks just to crack the twenty-point mark in a single game, the worst offensive start to the year for the entire CFL. Hardly a gaudy return on investment for their prized offseason addition of quarterback Darian Durant.
And yet through it all, Jacques Chapdelaine insists on continuing to run his own offence while juggling his first ever top-level head coaching job too.
Chapdelaine Not the Only One
It’s a curious new fad sweeping the league. Edmonton Eskimo head coach Jason Maas showed a preference for calling his own plays in his rookie season as a head. He even oversaw some strong offensive production.
But it kept him out of meetings for special teams and the defense. The Eskimos regressed by ten points per game defensively, and dropped from a first place team with a Grey Cup win in the year before to a squad taking the dirt trail through a crossover into the east playoffs. Then there was the gong show around coach Maas refusing to participate in TSN’s live mic game broadcast.
It was so bad that even a stubborn old quarterback like him finally relented and gave up his play-calling duties this season. To his credit, Maas learned his lesson. But others haven’t.
Corey Chamblin made the same mistake near the end of his time in Saskatchewan. He needed a scapegoat for the Riders late season struggles in 2014, so he stripped the universally respected Richie Hall of his defensive coordinator play-calling duties. Apparently, it was Hall’s mistake that Tino Sunseri, Seth Doege and fresh off the couch forty-one-year-old quarterback Kerry Joseph couldn’t spark the offence. Current Riders boss Chris Jones wears four hats—head coach, defensive coordinator, vice president of football operations and general manager—and has so far piled up a 6 and 14 record in Saskatchewan. Hardly impressive.
One would’ve thought Kent Austin’s experience in 2007 of letting his offensive coordinator Ken Miller call the plays en route to the franchise’s third championship in a century would have helped him to avoid the pitfalls of micro-managing his staff. But there he was in game two of the Ticats season this summer, seizing play-calling duties from offensive coordinator Stefan Ptaszek. The result: five carries for his running back, thirteen points from his offence, and another loss. Brilliant.
Insecurity Breeds Mistrust
Egos and incompetence are the root cause of these issues. Not on the part of the assistants who get demoted or removed all together, but their bosses who don’t give them a chance to grow and flourish in their roles. Teams currently employing this strange model will continue to lag at or near the bottom of the standings until their control freak head coaches either wake up to this reality or are removed themselves.
Darian Durant has now proven twice this season he can come through in the clutch and is capable of putting up far better numbers than the 19 points per game his offence has produced so far. Time for his head coach to take a page out of his old boss Wally Buono’s playbook and focus all of his time and energy on gameday toward being the head coach.
Hire a coordinator to do all this other stuff. Delegate. It’s what good managers in sports, business, and politics do. Jason Maas did it and now he’s the only undefeated coach in the CFL this year at 3 and 0. Worked pretty well for him. Kent Austin and Chris Jones should do the same.
And so should Jacques Chapdelaine. If he doesn’t than there’s a very good chance he will fail quickly and his first ever head coaching job in this league will be his last.