Rick Moffat is the Voice of the Montreal Alouettes on CJAD 800. He works alongside former CFLers Ed Philion and 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.
An Alouette icon and Canadian Football Hall of Famer knows how this déjà vu experience ends. Reigning Grey Cup championship team is humiliated to close out regular season. A former NFL assistant coach and his veteran quarterback are suddenly under the gun. How can the Alouettes regroup before hosting the Tiger-Cats in the Eastern Semi-final to set up their postseason payback time?
Is this 1975 or 2011?
The Alouettes suffered something of a Grey Cup hangover after their ’74 Grey Cup win. They stumbled out of the gate at 1-2, won 8 of their next 12 with 6 losses that season by a combined total of just 34 points.
But nothing prepared them for a 46-6 disaster against the hated Ottawa Roughriders. The comparison is poignant for Peter Dalla Riva.
“They’re so identical, it’s unbelievable how identical they are,” says Dalla Riva of his Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy and current Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman.
“Those guys are proven winners. They’re always steady, they’re always focused. I’ve had coaches throughout my career that just yelled and screamed.
“Trestman and Levy…you know you always have a chance with ‘em. Cuz you believe in ‘em. He’s done a great job and he reminds me so much of Marv. I’m sure he’s gonna keep ‘em together.”
Focus and a short memory.
“We just had to regroup (back in ’75) because of the veteran ballclub that we had,” recalls the battle-scarred tight end known for his crushing blocks and catches worthy of Cirque du Soleil, though Guy Laliberté wasn’t even a teenaged fire-eating busker at the time.
The Alouettes face a Tiger-Cat club full of swagger courtesy of Avon Cobourne, who as early in the season as the Als’ Grey Cup ring ceremony was claiming only HE could three-peat this year since Hamilton was winning in ’11.
Back in ’75, the Als on the emotional rebound, steamrolled past the Cats 35-12 before grinding out a 20-10 East Final win on the road in Ottawa.
“We dominated them physically,” remembers Dalla Riva, who still carries a ‘don’t you forget it’ body language. “Marv never said a lot about our loss to the Riders. We just went back to work.”
“I see Tony Gabriel in the offseason and we’re always talking about those battles. They may have always felt they were the team to beat but he says ‘you guys always ended up at Grey Cup.’”
While some CFL critics appear to be pushing Anthony Calvillo from the rejuvenating milestone moments earlier this season into a wheelchair, Dalla Riva says he won’t be surprised if AC surpasses Sonny Wade with a fourth Grey Cup ring by the time all is said and done.
“For sure because he knows his teammates so well and he has so many weapons,” reasons the team’s Outstanding Canadian nominee of ‘75and ’76, the last Alouette not named Ben Cahoon to win back-to-back nominations.
“I believe Hamilton and Winnipeg are in trouble. They have some experience but no one’s been as steady as Anthony.”
Back in the mid-70’s Levy frequently rotated his quarterbacks Wade and Jimmy Jones, but it was never for experiment’s sake like the current Ticats – more necessity being the coach of invention and revolving door.
“With Marv it was never pre-determined. We still felt like we had stability. I believe you have to go in with your No. 1 guy. Hamilton… I can’t believe what they’re doing with premature moves like that.”
There is no doubt MOP East nominee Calvillo carries the greatest weight of responsibility and opportunity to rally back. Before dismissing the 43-1 debacle against the Lions to the memory hole, he admitted blaim for ruined plays at a players-only offensive huddle before the Als returned to practice this week.
It became a group therapy session of “no…it was MY fault.”
“We have to wake up and make sure we play the kind of football we know we can play,” says Calvillo, whose passing efficiency rating has plummeted to just 60.6 through the season-ending three game losing streak (104.8 the previous 15 games).
But as confident as a Euro Finance Minister, Dalla Riva says suggests the déjà vu experience will have a familiar feel. The Als will rally because they must. Because it is simply what they do under Trestman, as under Levy.
See you at Grey Cup, I ask?
“Yeah I’ll be there.”
|2||Blue Bombers||DE||Mulumba, Andy|
|3||Alouettes via EDM||LB||Edem, Mike|