Alouettes quarterback Jonathan Crompton looks for an opening against the Toronto Argonauts during CFL action at Molson Stadium on Nov. 2, 2014.
Allen McInnis / Montreal Gazette
It was around the time Matt Dunigan drove me to abandon TSN and seek refuge on RDS. Ten minutes left in the fourth quarter, give or take.
Up to that point, this Alouettes-Argos tilt had been uglier than the north end of a southbound mule. Dropped passes, strange play calls (going for it on third-and-2 from your own end?) and (this being the Canadian Flag League) the usual plague of tossed hankies signifying nothing.
Having escaped Dunigan’s nasal inanities, I settled back with the French broadcast to see if there was anything the Als and Jonathan Crompton could do to escape a dispiriting home loss in the penultimate game of the season.
Piff! Paff! Poof! Bang! Just like that, Crompton led his team down the field. A couple of quick strikes to S.J. Green and one to Duron Carter and they were 78 yards down the field and in the end zone, on the sweet side of a 17-14 score and in possession of a playoff spot for the 19th consecutive year.
Say this: No. 13 his own self could not have done it better. After a typically bizarre punt play that kept the ball in Toronto hands, it would take a late defensive stand to preserve the win but that’s how this resilient bunch of Alouettes has performed through the second half of an amazing season.
Somehow, a team that was doing an excellent walking dead impersonation two months ago is now headed for the post-season. And since this is the CFL with all its endearingly bizarre quirks (or irritating nonsense, depending on your perspective) that means they have roughly the same shot at a Grey Cup as the dominant Calgary Stampeders.
I’ve been slow to warm to Crompton (maybe it’s the curls) but then, after what seems like two decades spent covering Anthony Calvillo, it’s hard to believe in another quarterback — especially when Crompton seemed like a desperate solution when he was first thrown into the fray, the latest in a game of quarterback roulette the Als were playing and losing in their attempt to replace Calvillo.
I thought Tanner Marsh was the answer. I thought Troy Smith was the answer. I never thought Alex Brink was the answer and I didn’t think Josh Neiswander was good enough to make it worthwhile to learn his name.
And when Crompton first trotted out there, it was like “who’s the guy with the curls — and who are they kidding??
No one, it turns out. Crompton has his weaknesses, beginning with a tendency to see Duron Carter and no one else on the field. But he’s big, he’s strong, he has an arm and he’s not only significantly more accurate than Smith, he makes better reads and he has a knack that can’t be taught – the ability to win football games.
The Als’ resurgence (they are now 7-1 with Crompton as their starting quarterback) creates some fascinating subplots.
With Tom Higgins deserving some love for the Annis Stukus Trophy as CFL coach of the year, what does Jim Popp do if (as seems likely) Marc Trestman is handed his walking papers by the Chicago Bears sometime between now and the Super Bowl?
Do you dump the guy who has turned in a coaching performance for the ages in favour of Trestman, the second-best coach in Alouettes history (after Marv Levy)? Or do you stick with Higgins, who had to be inches from the door himself before he replaced Smith with Crompton and set his team on the road to recovery?
Despite his penchant for strange play calls, like sending in Marsh to run the ball on first-and-10 Sunday with Crompton playing well, Higgins has done a brilliant job with this team. Mind you, he’s had help: No previous Alouettes coach, including Levy and Don Matthews, has been able to rely on such a ferocious, drive-quenching defence.
Losing creates issues
Chip Cox, John Bowman, Bear Woods, Jerald Brown, Winston Venable — the Als come at you in swarms, like wasps at a September picnic. They’re the reason the team is headed for the playoffs, not Crompton or Carter or even the offensive line that has been able to keep defenders off their young quarterback.
And that creates another issue. How long will it be before some other CFL franchise tabs Thorpe to be its head coach? And do the Alouettes want to risk losing him, as they’ve already lost Scott Milanovich and Chris Jones?
Losing creates issues for a football team, in other words. But so does winning, except that winning is a lot more fun.
He was doing so well until he started keeping praise on Higgins. It is that perspective that will likely get Higgins voted for coach of the year; when teams win the QB and the HC get too much credit, just as they get too much blame when they lose.
As for Thorpe, this seems like a low turnover season in the CFL after lots of movement last season.
Just listened to a LaPolice segment on TSN where he said Higgins gets his vote for coach of the year because of the Als turnaround.
Like others I certainly don
t agree, and it has more to do with his un-Head Coach like comments on Smith, Brink, Whitaker, Stafford than his in game strategy. And Im not even considering special teams where we need an independent coach.
Thorpe's done the dance before and he ended up with no job. He's a good coach but he's smart enough to know that he's nothing without the Cox, Bowman,Woods,Parker, Brown and on and on. He's got a good thing going here.
If he's unsure Popp can give him Tim Burke's or Milanovich's phone numbers. T see how the other half lives. Both didn't want to be patient. Either ones would have Trestman's job today. Burke is already on his second team and likely to be fired a second time. Scott looks like he's on the verge of a breakdown.
Si Milanovitch et Burke se font fusiller, ce sera parce que Barker veut sauver sa peau, tout comme Joe Mack l'a fait à Winnipeg.
Pour revenir à cet article, je trouve aussi que c'est faire preuve de peu de discernement de donner à Higgins le crédit du revirement de situation des Alouettes alors que c'est dû :
au travail de Thorpe, Willis, Quick et Stewart;
à l'embauche de Crompton, Matthews, Schonert et Garcia;
au renvoi de Campbell;
au travail de Sweet qui a très bien fait avec cette ligne offensive;
à un calendrier beaucoup plus facile en fin de saison.
Higgins a peut-être contribué à garder cette équipe unie, mais nous savons qu'il n'est pas l'artisan de cette résurgence. Il est étrange que quelqu'un qui suit la ligue d'aussi près ne le voit pas également, à moins qu'il ne préfère que Higgins reste à Montréal pour donner une chance à une autre équipe qu'il préfère.