Montreal Alouettes' head coach Jacques Chapdelaine walks on the sideline during team's 41-18 loss to the B.C. Lions in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday September 8, 2017. DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS
With eight losses in 11 games under the new tandem of general manager Kavis Reed and head coach Jacques Chapdelaine, Alouettes part owner and lead governor Andrew Wetenhall has reasons for concern.
Wetenhall, who rarely addresses the media — unlike his father, Robert, the patriarch, who likes to weigh in periodically and has owned the Canadian Football League team since 1997 — hardly gave the management duo a vote of confidence Tuesday morning. In fact, with the Als riding a four-game losing streak, he wouldn’t even commit to Reed and/or Chapdelaine completing the season.
“It’s safe to say nobody’s job is safe in this organization because we’re in an evaluation of how we can do better. If we can upgrade our personnel or do better through change, we may well have to,” Wetenhall said prior to the Als’ annual golf tournament at St. Raphaël on Île-Bizard.
“Success on the field, wins and championships are, by definition, influential because they’re the easiest benchmark anyone would use. It certainly helps everybody,” Wetenhall continued. “Quite frankly, this team could make the playoffs and we could make the determination change is appropriate because we could have made the playoffs much easier. The other side’s true. Not making the playoffs isn’t the only benchmark or yardstick.”
The Als have a 3-8 record — identical to last season —heading into Sunday afternoon’s game at Molson Stadium against Ottawa. A year ago at this time, Montreal was in the midst of a four-game losing streak. When the team dropped to 3-9, and heading into a bye week, it replaced Jim Popp as head coach with Chapdelaine, who went 4-2 to complete the season.
And when the Als missed the playoffs for a second consecutive season, going 7-11, Popp was replaced by Reed, the special teams coordinator, who had no experience as a GM.
Since then, the results have been open to debate. The argument could be made the Als are no better although, earlier in the year, appeared to be more competitive. And while the team’s fortunes might have changed this season with a win at Winnipeg, or had it not lost in double overtime to the Blue Bombers in the rematch, they’ve suffered lopsided losses in three of their last four games.
In the weak East Division, where no team has won more than four games, the Als still could qualify for the playoffs. But they’re also only two points in front of Hamilton, with the Tiger-Cats enjoying a game in hand. In other words, the Als could still finish with the league’s worst record.
Heading into the season, Wetenhall was seeking no worse than a second-place finish, meaning Montreal would host a playoff game, something this franchise hasn’t accomplished since 2014.Related
“Not the results (we were seeking) at this point in time,” Wetenhall stated. “The offensive execution during the last month has been lacklustre. We need to start winning games.
“To miss the playoffs again would hurt. We enjoy the benefit of a weaker East Division. That gives us an opportunity to still charge into the playoffs. There’s plenty of games left. There’s no doubt we want to make the playoffs. It’s a core objective.”
While the Als still have seven games remaining, only two will be at home after this weekend’s match. Montreal has a 3-3 record at Molson Stadium, but has lost all five of its road games. And while the team is averaging 19,011 spectators, according to its attendance figures, it has been on a decline since a victory against Toronto, Aug. 11. Attendance has been below 19,000 in four of six games.
“Four weeks ago, we thought this club was on the cusp of leading the East. We’ve had a very poor four weeks of play,” Wetenhall said.
Despite the organization’s struggles to improve its fan base Wetenhall said the family has no intention of selling the franchise.
“Do I look committed? Yes,” he stated.
Wetenhall maintained things have changed for the better with the hiring of president Patrick Boivin, combined with the appointments of Reed and Chapdelaine. Wetenhall said the decision-making, structure, framework, personnel and communications are stronger. Many of these mechanisms, at least from the outside, didn’t appear to exist under Popp, who placed too much attention on his desire to coach.
“This is a better organization than a year ago in evaluating where we are in player performance, game-planning and field performance,” Wetenhall said. “We have an evaluation mechanism after every game. We’re able to analyze and communicate through the organization what we intend on doing. We weren’t executing that stuff last year.”
And while many have spent weeks throwing starting quarterback Darian Durant under the bus for the team’s struggles, Wetenhall knows more than one player is responsible for a team’s performance.
“I have a hard time going through our roster and saying we really need to improve ‘that’ position dramatically,” he said. “We’ve upgraded our personnel in a very effective way.
“We haven’t executed as a team. That’s the small margin between winning and losing.”
Meanwhile, receiver T.J. Graham, who attended training camp with the Als, has returned and been placed on the practice roster. Defensive-lineman Ventral McMillan has been released from the PR.
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