From Herb Zurkowsky:
Whether he continues to play or moves to the sideline as an assistant, Nik Lewis said the Alouettes’ new head coach must build a trust factor with the players he inherits.
From the releases of Bear Woods, Jovon Johnson, Donald Unamba, Ryan Phillips and, even dating back to 2016, Duron Carter, the players’ trust in management was lost following a series of personnel moves.
“It almost felt like certain people didn’t want us to win,? Lewis told the Montreal Gazette on Monday, as frank and outspoken as ever. “When attitudes and egos change, it changes the culture.
“When you have people in place and coaches not wanting certain players …?
Lewis didn’t name names. Then again, that wasn’t required. It was clear from his comments he was referring to former head coach and offensive coordinator Jacques Chapdelaine along with defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe. Both were fired in mid-September, with the Als at 3-8. They completed the season with a 3-15 record, losing a record 11 consecutive games.
While many have been quick to blame general manager Kavis Reed for the Als’ plight, Lewis said more players would have been released — himself included — had Reed not fought for them.
“I was told in Week 3 that I wasn’t really wanted,? Lewis said. “My job isn’t to throw people under the bus, say things or demean people. What I was told and was known — and I was told by that person, it wasn’t hearsay — there were a handful of guys who weren’t wanted on our team.?
The Als also released middle-linebacker Woods on the second day of training camp before jettisoning Johnson, Unamba twice and Phillips from the secondary. Montreal intercepted a league-low eight passes.
“Johnson’s the leader of the Saskatchewan defence now,? Lewis said. “Unamba had a great camp and played great both times we brought him back. Then he played great at the end of the year for Hamilton. Ryan Phillips was so knowledgeable and could help the young guys. Those are things that make you competitive.
“When veteran players see how (those players) were let go, they’re going to hesitate to want to come here.?
Former legendary quarterback Anthony Calvillo, for the third time in as many seasons, was forced to become the offensive coordinator. He had been the quarterbacks coach under Chapdelaine. Not only does Calvillo remain inexperienced, it’s hard to believe he received much assistance in formulating game plans.
Lewis again said there was mistrust and things going on behind the scenes, without elaborating.
“We came up short and it’s hard to talk about without coming across as though this person or that person is the problem,? he said. “We all have to take the blame. Nobody was good enough or we wouldn’t have been 3-15.?
Along with putting systems and structures in place, Lewis hopes the new head coach is someone to whom the players can relate.
“Someone who brings in a new energy, puts something around people that wants them to show up to practice, makes them want to get better,? Lewis said.
Veteran centre Luc Brodeur-Jourdain echoed those sentiments days earlier.
“You need a head coach and staff that are going to put that chemistry together where you totally forget the business and just play for the love of the game,? he said. “There has to be changes in the way we do everything on the field. The way we practice, the way we prepare for the game. The players have to be responsible for that lack of success this year.?
Several potential new head coaches have been mentioned by the Montreal Gazette, including Paul LaPolice, Corey Chamblin, Rich Stubler, Marcel Bellefeuille, Glen Constantin and former Canadian Football League quarterback Tom Clements. Another name that surfaced on Monday was Calgary defensive coordinator Devone Claybrooks.
Lewis could return for a 15th season, should the new man be so inclined. Lewis also has been campaigning to become the Als’ receivers coach — something the Montreal Gazette first reported after his final game this year, at Saskatchewan.
“There are guys on this team who are good. People don’t just lose it from top to bottom. It’s either a gradual decline or something else,? he said. “I believe in what the future holds. I believe we have some positive guys. Guys that can make big plays.?
Zurkowsky posted that in addition to Nik Lewis, Jacques Chapdelaine also wanted to release Ernest Jackson.