Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

M.I.A.: Montreal Alouettes Identity

WARNING: The Montreal Alouettes Identity is missing. Jim Popp has ripped away any swagger or mantra in this team, leaving them to get blown out in games.

In a case of a stolen identity, the victim has a tough time adapting to a social and working life. Every aspect of our everyday lives is consumed by official identity documents – driver’s license, work/school I.D, passports for frequent travellers, the MediCare card for Quebec citizens, and most importantly, our Social Insurance Number.

Victims of identity theft are at a loss in the parts of their life that need those documents, and other people have an advantage over them when they try to fly, find a job, or even purchase a public transport card. Compared to the rest of the Canadian Football League, the Montreal Alouettes are like identity theft victims – they are at a disadvantage. The Alouettes’ identity has been lost.

Who stole the Alouettes’ identity?

It’s still unclear how Montreal ceased to be the home of the Alouettes, and became instead home to 46 individuals. Witnesses have confirmed spotting the Alouettes identity stuck in the back pocket of former head coach Tom Higgins after he stole it following his post-win firing, six weeks ago.

His abrupt departure from the club is allegedly the motive behind this theft. Since then, the clueless man looking down at this situation, general manager Jim Popp, has been acting as the head coach, although his skills at the position are limited.

Since that win against the B.C. Lions, the Alouettes have a modest 2-3 record for such an inconsistent team. But the way they lost their games and the way they are managed on the sidelines and in the front office raise the question: what is the 2015 Montreal Alouettes identity?

What happened to 2014 Alouettes?

The 2014 Alouettes ended the season with a 9-3 record. But this year, a decent start to the season has been hampered by both injuries and returns from injuries, leading to controversies and lack of coach’s trust at certain positions, most notably at quarterback.

Rakeem Cato soared under Higgins and has crumpled under Popp, but injuries and a family issue have limited him to only three games under the new regime – and not one of those three has been a complete-game outing.

In his absence, Tanner Marsh led the team to a road win in Hamilton, a game in which Cato started but was knocked out of due to injury. The following week, Marsh threw five interceptions against the Lions at home.

Their true number one, Jon Crompton, returned from a 9-game absence two weeks ago and led his team to a win. He looked like the man to take the helm behind center for the rest of the season.

Popp had other plans: he tied Crompton to a short leash last weekend against Saskatchewan. Like only Jim Popp would do, Crompton was pulled after throwing an interception, which paved the way for Popp’s new favourite, Cato, and yet another loss.

This week’s 39-17 defeat in Ottawa was the pinnacle of bad games losses for Montreal. From start to finish, Montreal, for a lack of a better phrase, flat out sucked.

Early in the first quarter, defensive back Johnathan Hefney was stretchered out after falling unconscious from a helmet-to-helmet collision with Patrick Lavoie. With an already thinned out defensive group that had middle linebackers Bear Woods and Kyler Elsworth each on the sideline, the Alouettes played with up to three rookies on the field, Anthony Coady, Nick Shortill and Terry Johnson, to neutralize the fierce Redblacks attack. They allowed Henry Burris to set the record of most completions in a game with 45 passes. It’s difficult to get more completions than the quarterback’s age, even moreso at 40, but Smilin’ Hank was certainly smiling after his performance. The Redblacks collected 37 first downs on offence and had 580 total yards in the 39:26 they had with the ball.

The Alouettes defence looked like a kid that was chasing his ball down a sloped street; they just kept running, and running, and running. Eventually they were out of gas and couldn’t catch up to their opponents.

As for Cato, he got little help from his offensive line and receivers, getting sacked three times and only passing 12/17 for 75 yards, but did not throw an interception. What was the most shocking was that, after seeing how fast Popp pulled Crompton the previous week, Cato only landed on the sidelines in the fourth quarter, replaced by rookie Anthony Boone. Boone is just another pivot in the team’s carousel of quarterbacks over the past few seasons. Boone proved his worth, however, and made 12 completions on 18 attempts for 147 yards and managed to pass for two touchdowns and an interception.

Popp has yet to give this team an identity that they can stand by, that they can call themselves by. Right now, the Montreal Alouettes are just a bunch of talented football players playing scheduled games in the CFL. They are certainly not “Birds of Prey” as the marketing team characterized a few years ago. And they don’t come anywhere near the level of the Eskimos defence of Tiger-Cats offence.

Still clinging onto a play-off spot via the West cross-over, the Alouettes have little time to rebound after two blow-out losses; if they don’t, they will be packing their bags much earlier than expected.

For now, with a lost Alouettes identity, the team and their fans will continue searching for what was taken from them a few weeks ago.


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