Moffat: Alouettes commit to Popp in post-Calvillo era

{eot} Staff
7/10/2014 2:07:25 PM
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If Chad Johnson was hoping for a regular parking space at the home of the Montreal Alouettes, the GM's spot is taken for a few more years.

The Als gave Jim Popp a contract extension on Thursday, ending worries the team would suffer added brain drain after losing Marc Trestman to the Chicago Bears.  Popp has frequently been a candidate for a range of front office jobs including the GM role with the NFL's Carolina Panthers, a team headquartered just a 30-minute drive from his home in North Carolina.

Since Popp helped move the Baltimore Stallions north in 1996, the Alouettes are the winningest team in the CFL.  Popp has been the only constant, but sources close to the team admit he had been hoping and planning on returning this season in the dual role of coach and GM.  Entering the final year of his contract, he was surprised by the hiring of Tom Higgins -- a CFL sideline veteran and former director of officiating -- as the team's new head coach.

Some have speculated Popp's signing of the NFL star formerly known as Ochocinco was as much about putting himself back in the front office job spotlight south of the border as it was getting the Bengals' all-time leading receiver for Alouette quarterbacks.

But Popp has never been shy about taking a chance on NFL talents past their prime: witness Ahman Green, Quincy Carter and the infamous Lawrence Phillips -- who helped Popp and the Als end a 25-year Grey Cup drought back in 2002.

The quest for the next great quarterback led Popp to even claim the likes of NFL stars Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and Tim Tebow on his negotiating lists.

Popp's master stroke in recent years was turning an out-of-fashion offensive guru named Marc Trestman into the hottest coaching commodity to come out of Canada in recent decades. 

The immediate task for Popp this season is keeping the Als competitive after the retirement of Anthony Calvillo, as Troy Smith, the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner, will attempt to solidify his team's tentative start with a victory against Winnipeg Friday night. 

Popp will soon be packing bags for his annual NFL training camp scouting missions in about two weeks, when he'll see his first round selection in the CFL Draft, David Foucault now a rookie hopeful with the Panthers.

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