Coming into the 2013 season, many expected the talent
of the Montreal offence would buy time for a young defence to
develop. Few could have predicted that after two weeks the Als would
have the worst offensive production in the CFL.
There is an old football saying that players play and coaches coach, meaning that each individual has a job to do and, if performed well, the coordinated effort produces success on the field.
But what happens when coaches are still trying to get comfortable with the offence they are trying to coach?
Coming into the 2013 season, many expected the talent of the Montreal offence would buy time for a young defence to develop. Few could have predicted that after two weeks the Als would rank second-last in the CFL in points scored.
Over the years we have come to appreciate how Anthony Calvillo controlled his emotions on the field. What surprised me the most this past week was the visible and obvious frustration expressed by Calvillo during Montreal's home loss to the Bombers.
I am not trying to take anything away from the defensive performance of Winnipeg, but when the best quarterback to ever play in the CFL produces only four first downs and a total of 74 yards of offence after three quarters of play, you know there is more to the story.
When new coaching staffs arrive on a team, it's usually the quarterback who is challenged to learn a new offensive system. This year the roles are reversed.
How do you explain something that you don't fully understand yourself? You don't, or at least you don't do it very well. Yet this is what the Alouettes' new offensive coordinator, Mike Miller, is attempting to do.
The offence that Montreal runs is extremely complicated and requires everyone to make appropriate adjustments based on what the defence shows. The attention to detail is critical for success to occur.
It took Toronto Argonauts coach Scott Milanovich a full year of coaching to get veteran quarterback Ricky Ray up to speed with the offence, and Milanovich understood the details of that offence.
It must be extremely awkward in meetings when Miller attempts to explain something in film sessions that Calvillo knows is not accurate. Does Calvillo stand up and correct his offensive coordinator, or does the meeting end with players shaking their heads knowing that not everyone is on the same page?
With no experience in the CFL, Marc Trestman was able to implement a successful offensive scheme and produce an impressive winning record while in Montreal. But let's understand that Trestman is the exception, not the rule.
The CFL game is different than the NFL game. Although both Miller and O-line coach Frank Verducci have plenty of coaching experience, they are now coming to appreciate this fact.
The Als' victory in Week 1 temporarily masked the problem that became very evident during last Thursday's game. According to Calvillo, the Week 2 loss was a "blessing" because it forced the Montreal coaching staff to admit that there was a problem.
Montreal obviously has the offensive talent needed to be successful. History has proven this. Unfortunately, the players don't have the coaching staff that can place them in the position to be successful, and they definitely don't have the staff that can make the necessary in-game adjustments.
With an obvious media muzzle on players, the only person making comments was Calvillo. When interviewed this week, he must have talked about communication a dozen times.
According to Calvillo, the Als offence will spend more time on the field walking through assignments rather than spending time in the classroom. The reason they are going to do this is because it presents a more appropriate teaching environment for Calvillo to coach up players.
The only time that Montreal looked productive offensively last Thursday was when Calvillo ran their three-minute drill at the end of the game, which resulted in a touchdown.
If Montreal is going to have success this season offensively, Calvillo will need to go back to calling his own plays during the game and he will need to step up and take a more active role coaching this team during the week.
Alouettes general manger Jim Popp will not wait long before making changes to his football team. Calvillo will either be granted greater latitude with the offence, or you will see changes to the coaching staff.
Greg FrersGreg played in the Canadian Football League as an all-star safety for 10 years, and was a two-time Grey Cup champion with the Calgary Stampeders. He retired from the CFL after the 2002 season, and later joined CBC Sports as a football analyst. Greg currently lives in Vancouver with his wife Lisa and their three boys.
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