The Montreal Alouettes have given Troy Smith a short leash this week. It may be time to rethink that.
Get him a new set of keys.
“I had keys at Ohio State, but not here yet,” laughs Smith at the suggestion he should, like the all-time leading passer in pro football history who preceded him, be opening up the film room for the coaching staff some mornings.
“The bar that Anthony Calvillo set is very high, but I don’t have a problem working to get there,” says the strong-armed scrambler still in his first calendar year of service with the Als.
“Film study is definitely paramount and is very, very serious and important for any quarterback’s development and growth. I’m starting to heighten that (film study)...I don’t know that I’m ‘Anthony Calvillo Stage’ yet, but I’m starting to get there.”
Long before his Heisman glories, Smith has been humbled by the game and by his coaches. Just eight starts into his CFL career (counting post-season) his leadership and abilities are already being questioned in the Als’ 1-3 start.
Thankfully the confident, composed speaker can draw on challenges he overcame during campus life.
“Early on in my career at Ohio State when I was a young,” he said with his voice trailing off.
“Not irresponsible but just a young punk, so to speak. I thought I was a little further along and it was frustrating and I was benched a few more games because I was an immature guy then.”
“I had to dig deep and understand the things that were going on for me at school weren’t just because I was who I was, but 10 other guys on the field with me. That correlates here because you have to have an understanding that it’s nowhere near as bad as you think and not as good as you think.”
“Remain even-keeled because good times are on the horizon.”
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In a strikingly candid live interview on my TSN690 Postgame Show immediately following the Alouettes’ humiliation at the claws of the BC Lions, John Bowman called out numerous teammates saying too many players simply “weren’t putting in the time or the work off the field.”
Troy denies the veteran’s blast was on target.
“The work that you put in should be your salvation, it shouldn’t be to brag and boast so that somebody else knows what you are doing.”
“I think as a man your character should come out in adverse times. Men are men and iron sharpens iron, so to speak. We have to help each other to get better.”
Enter “Coaching Consultant” Turk Schonert, 2013 head coaching candidate with plenty of NFL, even UFL experience.
“I told him we have a 20-second play-clock and he was like ‘Really?!’,” Head Coach Tom Higgins admits of his new contributor.
“All the motion, the yard off the ball, but he brings a fresh pair of eyes. We plan for him to be eyes and ears and give us some input. We started talking about this kind of person in Training Camp.”
“It’s strange for me to come in and not say anything,” concedes Schonert, who has worked with quarterbacks in Buccaneers, Bills (twice), Panthers, Giants, Saints and even Mountain Lions (UFL) colours.
“Coach Higgins just said go be a fly on the wall.”
Schonert texted Popp when he heard word of the sudden axing of OC Rick Worman. Discussions only heated up days ago, though.
“There’s no reason to panic, just keep communicating and believing in each other,” Schonert says in a reassuring tone. “He (Troy Smith) is talented. I was at Sacramento and he was at Omaha. I spoke to (former Argos HC) Bart Andrus about him. I know Bart very well and he said a lot of great things about him, his work ethic.”
Smith was not assigned any homework during the bye-week break, Higgins wanting his players to unplug then rededicate themselves this week upon their return.
“It can’t hurt,” admits Higgins. “All the players are feeling the pressure, but more the accountability to their teammates. It’s not what it needs to be and all of a sudden you see he’s responding to the challenge that is in front of us. We need to be a lot more productive offensively, but we need to be a lot better at the quarterbacking position.”
Can a CFL newbie really help the rise of Troy? When it was pointed out after practice his new mentor has NO experience in the three-down world, Smith chuckled.
“Sounds like me.”
Rick Moffat is the Voice of the Montreal Alouettes on CJAD 800. He works alongside former CFL Dave Mudge. Moffat's first attended Grey Cup was as a fan in '77 - the infamous Tony Proudfoot "Staple Game". Rick is proud to say he had his first beer at an Als' game during the Marv Levy Era. Follow Rick on Twitter @RickMoffat.