There are two kinds of Jim Popps in this world. The general manager Jim Popp and the head coach Jim Popp. Both are two completely different people with different results at their positions. The general manager version has won four Grey Cup championships with the same organization – one with the Baltimore Stallions and three with the Montreal Alouettes – while the head coach boasts a mediocre 21-32 record over four stints at the helm, and has yet to have a winning season.
With his team at a record of 2-5 and tumbling towards a franchise-worst season, could this mean the end to head coach Jim Popp?
Is this the End for Coach Jim Popp?
Popp’s abysmal start to the season comes as a surprise to nobody, and neither does his uncertain future on the sidelines. Popp has been on the hot seat ever since he said he was going to stay on as head coach, after he fired Tom Higgins following a win last season. Higgins led the team to the East Division Final in 2014 and went 3-5 before getting the axe last season, and Popp then went 3-7 the rest of the way. Why did he deserve to keep his job and Higgins didn’t? That remains up in the air.
Popp also seems to be losing control of his grip on the team. There is missing leadership from him on top towards his coaching staff and towards his players, leading to a lack of communication, penalties and many mistakes on the field. Practices at times lack energy and the team is constantly falling late in games.
Last Sunday, after their loss to the B.C. Lions, Popp reportedly ripped into the team in a meeting, and made some players uncomfortable with his comments. Leaders stepped up during the meeting to clear up what Popp had said and make sure he did not attack any players on a personal level, but rather wanted to send a message.
Even if the matter is cleared up, Popp cannot take back his comments and his players may feel like they don’t want to play for a coach who does not want them to play for him. In their 23-12 loss Thursday night against the Edmonton Eskimos, the team was in it until the final two minutes, but the star-studded offence lacked passion and results. The defence and special teams carried the team, and the offence failed to produce when needed on its final drive.
It’s not like Popp does not have suitable assistant coaches and coordinators in his ranks to replace him. In fact, he has an abundance of proteges ready to take over the ranks, and he may have too many.
Assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe, assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Kavis Reed and offensive coordinator Anthony Calvillo are all suitable head coaches, which at times causes a rift between the three. In the off-season, Thorpe wanted out but Commissioner Jeffrey Orridge ruled that he stay in Montreal, and Popp promoted him to assistant head coach so he could be on the same level as Reed. Too many chefs in the kitchen causes nothing but problems. And too many assistant head coaches on a football team causes nothing but losses.
Does Popp Get Let Go?
Right now, it seems very unlikely that Popp will lose his job as head coach. Owner Bob Wetenhall and President Mark Weightman have both worked with Popp over his 20-year career in Montreal and when executives grow that close, it becomes nearly impossible to fire them. Calvillo is being groomed as the next head coach, but as a second-year OC, the organization may want to wait before passing over the baton.
Does that mean head coach Jim Popp keeps his job for the rest of the season? Probably. Does that mean the Alouettes will fall into the worst season since their revival in 1996? Unfortunately for fans, probably yes.