MONTREAL -- What’s old is new again for the Montreal Alouettes, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
With a few days of practice under his belt, Jim Popp – back for his third stint as head coach for the Als – is trying to move on from last week’s firing of Dan Hawkins.
And Popp knows exactly what it will take to do so.
“Coach Hawkins is a good person; players know that, they never quit. We got a great locker room of guys, we got a great coaching staff but it just wasn’t clicking, that’s why a change was made,” Popp told MontrealAlouettes.com after practice on Monday.
“We are trying to do as little change as we can to get back the way we should be, get the weight lifted off players, for guys to feel good about things. At the end of the day, we still have to go out and play, execute what we are teaching and then it all comes together for winning and losing because the name of the game is to win.”
Popp admits there is still plenty of work to be done before the Als put out the welcome mat for Thursday night’s crucial divisional clash with the Toronto Argonauts.
But as the 48-year-old explains, he’s fortunate to take over a situation where there’s absolutely no shortage of talent.
“Well these guys are talented, the more they play the better they are going to get. From a talent level they have it all and it’s only going to get better the more reps they get in, in an actual game situation,” he said.
One player who undoubtedly has talent that has yet to be untapped this season is QB Anthony Calvillo.
Through five games, the future hall of famer is on pace for 3,726 passing yards and just 18 touchdown passes. Should he continue on that clip, Calvillo would register his lowest totals since 2007 - when Popp last suited up as the team’s head coach.
Popp believes that the new offence being implemented by himself and newly-minted offensive coordinator Doug Berry is better suited to fit Calvillo’s style of play.
“I can’t speak for Anthony, but what I am trying to do is in this situation is to do something that fits Anthony but also to get as many reps in practice as we can,” he said.
“I see a different Anthony already. I can’t speak for him but he just didn’t seem to be himself, ” he added.
Calvillo agreed with his new head coach.
“Our guys on the offensive side of the ball are not frustrated anymore; they are not wasting energy on not having the right call, not having great communication, that’s behind us now. Guys are just focusing on the play now,” he said.
“I think for us on offence, our offensive coaches had a little bit of a difficult time doing what they wanted to do. Now with Doug and Jim Popp in charge there will be freedom to do what they have been doing their entire lives which is coach what they know and that’s the direction we are heading right now.”
“It always starts with our coaches, and it funnels down to the players.”
One player that won’t benefit from the new offensive system in place is receiver Jamel Richardson, who will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL and LCL he suffered during practice on Sunday.
Popp, however, is confident the unit will be able to produce results, even with the perennial All-Star on the shelf.
“Trying to figure out what gives us the best chance with (Richardson out),” he said.
“There are two or three guys that can step in. We could have a combination of return type of guys, we could go with a non-import change or we could just go one for one. We are practicing though; everybody is getting their reps in.”