Als better be careful, or they’re the next 49ers

There had been no franchise in pro football that set the standard like the San Francisco 49ers did a generation ago.

They had a once-in-a-lifetime quarterback, a legendary coach and a hall-of-fame architect. And they won championships. Boy, few owned titles more than those Niners did with the trio of Joe Montana, Bill Walsh and Eddie DeBartolo.

Then, as that era began to fizzle, ownership got muddied, the quarterback quickly turned old and concussed, and the coach stepped away. In the aftermath, a second-generation owner craving control pushed away Jim Harbaugh when the franchise looked to have a glimmer of hope again, and allowed an assistant coach who manoeuvred the halls well politically (Jim Tomsula) to have the top job.

Since Harbaugh left, the 49ers have been without a legit quarterback and now may very well be the biggest disgrace in football. But the owner is Jed York, who happens to be Eddie DeBartolo’s nephew, and just ask him: thankfully he has all the power in the football building.

Which brings us to the Montreal Alouettes.

When the franchise unveiled Don Matthews as its coach some fifteen November’s ago – to the chagrin of league officials, for disrupting their precious news blackout during Grey Cup week – so began a run not dissimilar to their colleagues in Northern California.

Under the trio of Matthews-Popp-Calvillo, the Als won the Grey Cup in 2002 and found themselves back in the title game in 2003, 2005 and 2006. Marc Trestman arrived in 2008, replacing The Don in the historical triangle, and Montreal reached three straight championship games, holding back-to-back parades in 2009 and 2010.

The gold standard in the CFL was Montreal. They sold out every game at McGill’s Molson Stadium, becoming – believe it or not – a hotter ticket than the historic Habs, for a minute, and under Bob Wetenhall’s ownership there was stability – and sanity – in reporting structures.

Then the inevitable: Calvillo got old and concussed, Trestman left for Chicago, Popp became obsessed with coaching and a couple of years ago, another second generation owner, this time Andrew Wetenhall, took over the controls.

And now, today: an assistant manoeuvring the political climate with ownership, Jacques Chapdelaine, is the unquestioned head coach after knocking off a 4-2 record. It appears the Als are on the verge of making Kavis Reed GM, he of zero front office management experience. And their hopes of hiring a President of Football Operations blew up, because nobody seemed to know who would report to whom and who had control of the day-to-day decision making. Oh, and there’s no established starting quarterback in Montreal either. The fifth straight season they’re in that boat.

Jed York wants to be front and centre in San Francisco, and as the dysfunction played out last week it appears Andrew is set on doing the same with the Alouettes. He’s willing to hire inexperienced folks in power positions, knowing full well that he’ll have final say.

Pro sports is full of these examples, and so, too is the CFL: the Feterik’s in Calgary, where owner Michael insisted his son, Kevin, play quarterback; the Glieberman’s in Ottawa, where Lonie was more concerned with courting cheerleaders and resurrecting dudes from the ashes because he once owned their football card in his youth.

What are the model franchises in sport? New England has Kraft-Belichick-Brady. San Antonio had the same owner, coach (Popovich) and fixture (Duncan) for two decades. Chicago hasn’t wavered from Rocky Wirtz, Coach Q and Toews/Kane. They’ve won three Cups in six years.

But then along the way comes Jed York and in short order, an organization that set the standard for the rest has become the biggest running joke in the NFL. Let’s not even begin on the downfall of the Lakers since Dr. Jerry Buss died, and his kids took over.

The Alouettes have sold out one game in the past five years. They’ve won one playoff game since Trestman left in 2012. No CFL franchise has gone longer without a Grey Cup appearance than Montreal.

Ownership can do what it wants. But if the priority is pulling the puppet strings, over constructing a proper structure, then the whole thing will fall apart at the seams.


Arash Madani

Arash Madani

Arash Madani is a reporter for Sportsnet. He has staffed 11 Grey Cups & does play-by-play for CIS Football. His dream: the Gaiters playing for a Vanier.
Arash Madani
Arash Madani
About Arash Madani (15 Articles)
Arash Madani is a reporter for Sportsnet. He has staffed 11 Grey Cups & does play-by-play for CIS Football. His dream: the Gaiters playing for a Vanier.
Contact: Website

17 Comments on Als better be careful, or they’re the next 49ers

  1. Terry Baxter // December 12, 2016 at 10:42 am //

    Agree 100%. This franchise is a mess

  2. Thanks for the column.
    The CFL East can’t afford a mess in its two major markets…… Montreal and Toronto.

    • Although I’m not sure that this guy can write an article that ISN’T negative towards the CFL, it’s nice to see that he can write one that is critical (and rightfully so) without any low blows after all.

      These days I’m more concerned about Montreal (and perhaps Vancouver) than Toronto. Toronto now has a chance, at least. I think this year they underestimated what it would take, but I’m optimistic the people in place are ultimately working in the right direction. However, the Als seem to have been overrun with egotistic management who are less concerned about the direction of the team and more concerned about holding onto their power. (Whereas in Vancouver, it seems the big concern is about how to get away with spending as little as possible.)

  3. Regrettably, this article and the comments made echo a chilling truth.

  4. Marc Lebut // December 12, 2016 at 2:27 pm //

    Says the guy who said Maciocia would be next GM… and finally was wrong.

  5. Solara2000 // December 12, 2016 at 2:54 pm //

    History ignored is doomed to repeat itself

  6. THIS is why someone OUSIDE of the city, outside the DAILY bump and grind of a club MOST Montrealers know, inside and out, year after year…why ANY such truth that sees the light is a PARTIAL one. AND partial truth has a nasty habit of illuminating JUST enough to see, but NOT enough to make any sense of what you see.

    “And now, today: an assistant manoeuvring the political climate with ownership, Jacques Chapdelaine, is the unquestioned head coach after knocking off a 4-2 record.”

    THIS contention is absurd. The ONLY thing Jacques Chapdelaine “maneuvered” was taking a pathetic, LOSING offence, run by incompetents, and turn it on it’s head…winning 4 of 6 of the final games of the season. OTHER than that….nada…zip. Oh…and he happens to speak French…sort of.

    Is ownership BEHOLDEN to Chapdelaine in ANY way? No..ridiculous. But he won, and he gave this team it’s first ray of hope in over 3 seasons.

    It’s TRUE that a prospective GM might balk at the insistence that his HC & OC be “pre-chosen” for him. However, considering how quickly the hammer came down on the head of Dan Hawkins, and how ruthlessly it came down on Higgins…ANY GM candidate would EASILY be soothed. If Chapdelaine messes the bed, he, the new GM would then be in the traditional position of choosing his own guy…problem duly slathered with DENIAL and put aside for the Montreal rainy season…USUALLY around week 6 or 7…or whenever the bye week rolls around.

    However…there’s an exception to the alacrity of the executioner’s blade in this city: in 2016, the Poppvillo matched-set of Jim Popp and Anthony Calvillo swallowed 2/3 of the 2016 season in the Maw of their combined incompetence. Why?

    Well it turns out that, just like with the Calgary Stampeders and Tom Dickenson, the Alouettes have BIG plans for their legendary quarterback, Anthony Calvillo. An incoming GM would NOT ONLY inherit the PRESENT HC and OC…but once/if he messed things up, ownership is certain to insist that Calvillo be the next man up. Just ask the Wetenhalls. It’s a LOCK. Regardless of his limitations at the position. Regardless of his unsuitability for the coaching profession in general. Regardless of the PAINFUL checkers game he brought to the chess match that is the CFL.

    And for the record…this IMPEDIMENT that assures that EVERY valid, competent GM candidate refuse the GM position in Montreal…is at Bob Wetenhall’s insistence, NOT is son Andrew’s. It is the football equivalent of a “last will and testament” insisting on ONE proviso: that the “inheritor” spend the night proving his worth by sleeping in that haunted house down the street.
    In other words, it’s that Scooby Doo kind of coocoo.

    The Wetenhalls are NOT fooling anyone in Montreal. FORCING a GM to accept YOUR choice for Head Coach and offensive coordinator is ONE thing. Tying his hands on his successor down the road is a DEAL BREAKER.

    Kavis Reed is NO GM. The Als do this and the Wetenhalls prove, once and for all, that the will of the people is NOTHING in the face of their insistence on their own pet projects. Damn winning. Damn the fans. Dammit…it’s MY team and I’ll bloody well do what I like.

    BEFORE Chapdelaine was HC, there was a not-so-quiet revolution vis a vis the Alouettes in this city…if the comment sections and forums are anything to go by. Molson Stadium was a Ghost Town and the “ONE sellout” referred to was literally a GASP of relief that a professional was FINALLY at the helm of the offence, and the team. Oh yeah…and he spoke French. Woot.

    Expect ANOTHER revolution as yet another incompetent is installed in a position he neither merits, NOR for which he is qualified. All so Anthony Calvillo can pay his mortgage and have a job for life.

    This team is TRULY in trouble. However…a simple signing of a GM like Brock Sunderland OR Danny Maciocia would have been a HUGE 1st step in fixing our troubles. Find ANOTHER logical reason that CANNOT happen and I’ll listen. Heck…Montreal would like to KNOW.

    But in the climate of secrecy that has been more destructive then well…Montreal’s climate in general (brrr)…NO such explanation is likely to be forthcoming. Given the information available at hand, and frankly FLIMSY and illogical explanations like THIS article…adding to the general confusion…and I’ll conclude by stating that the INHERITING, not of Chapdelaine in the short term, but of Calvillo in the VERY LONG…is the reason the Alouettes are teetering on the precipice, yet again, of franchise failure.

    • That’s “Dave” Dickenson”. Darned comment section needs an “edit” button. My bad.

    • The “assistant” he seems to be referring to is KR, not JC.

      No one questions that Chapdelaine did enough to deserve a chance to be a Head Coach. That said, a new GM should be able to make their own choice and not fettered with an ownership imposed hire.

  7. Terry Melnyk // December 12, 2016 at 4:28 pm //

    I quit reading after Arash wrote “precious news blackout during Grey Cup week” WTF Arash? Every league has a similar policy. He can’t write an article without having to take baseless shots at the CFL.

  8. I didn’t know the Chicago Blackhawks won 3 Grey Cups in 6 years. Tom Who????

  9. I weep for the future of the Montreal Alouettes. I hope the franchise can survive this up and coming disaster.

  10. Another negative CFL article by Arash Madani. What a goof. Why is he on this site?

  11. Judging by Reeds past record he would be a very bad choice for GM and Montreal can’t afford a bad choice.

  12. @AsshatMadani // December 15, 2016 at 4:03 am //

    I better be careful, I’m becoming the next Steve Simmons!

  13. thomasammy8 // December 18, 2016 at 12:45 pm //

    Stay at home mom Kelly Richards from New York after resigning from her full time job managed to average from $6000-$8000 a month from freelancing at home… This is how she done


  14. I could not refrain from commenting. Perfectly written!

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