Campbell: Third time's the charm for Popp in Montreal

Sean Campbell
8/1/2013 10:12:38 PM
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Jim Popp is back on the sideline for the Alouettes for the third time and has nothing to prove.

"It's not a situation where I have to re-prove myself - don't need to - it's not in my agenda." Popp stated at his re-re-introduction as head coach of the Montreal Alouettes.

Popp takes over for Dan Hawkins, who was let go by owner Robert Wetenhall and Popp early Thursday morning. Popp takes over at the request of his owner, once again.

In 2001, Popp replaced Rod Rust late in the season and quickly lost the final regular season game and the only playoff game. At that time, he was only a temporary solution as Don Mathews was hired prior to the 2002 season.

CFL on TSN's very own Jock Climie was a part of that 2001 Alouette team and knows Popp isn't a guy that runs the playbook.

"He's not an Xs and Os guy, so that means he's got to rely heavily on his coordinators," said Climie.

Knowing things haven't gone well each time on the sidelines, Climie also hopes that Popp takes something from those experiences.

"I certainly hope Jim has learned some lessons."

Lesson two came in 2006 when Don Matthews stepped away due to health issues. Popp took over in October and went 2-2 down the stretch and then advanced to the Grey Cup only to lose to B.C. 25-14.

"I was able to get the team turned around and get to the Grey Cup. We didn't win it, but the owner loved that," Popp said, reflecting on that time period. "We were interviewing people at the end of the year, then we didn't do it. He (Wetenhall) didn't want to go through the process. He said I want you to be the coach."

And there you have it. In 2007, Popp was the head coach of the Alouettes on a permanent basis. It was a difficult season filled with turmoil among coaches, injuries to Anthony Calvillo and illnesses in Calvillo's family. They finished at 8-10 -- the only time the team finished a season under .500 since 1996.

Paul Lambert, who was a part of the 2006 and 2007 Alouette teams, remembers the difficult times.

"Let's face it, he relied heavily on his two coordinators, unfortunately we had some assistant coaches that were not on the same page offensively," said Lambert.

But Lambert was also very quick to give Popp some praise.

"He's going to try and motivate the guys. One thing I'll say about Jim is that he knows every single player on the team, on the roster, on the practice roster, on the injury reserve, as good if not better than any coach on the staff. He knows them because he's the reason why they are here."

As for proving himself, Popp's numbers aren't great. He's 10-13 in the regular season and only 1-3 in the playoffs in his two previous stints. But Popp knows what worked and what didn't.

"I know what went on in 2007. I know what I did right, I know what I didn't do great," said Popp. He continued with some specifics. "I made a lot changes with people, too many in hindsight, there were 20-some rookies on our team, there was a lot and that was not a great move on my part, period."

But the team is now made and five-games into a season. At this point, personnel should not be an issue. Popp needs to get the team's offence in gear.  His first order of business is to scrap Mike Miller's offence and allow Doug Berry, once the team's offensive coordinator, to bring in something Calvillo is excited for.

"We threw for a lot of yards. We were very successful; we had a great running game," said Calvillo. "Protection was solid. I feel like he'll bring the same knowledge that he had back then."

Calvillo has seen Popp as head coach multiple times, so he knows how to deal with his GM on the sidelines. 

"He's been around a lot of great coaches in Don Matthews and Marc Trestman, with him knowing the players and him experienced what he's experienced I think it'll benefit our football team," added Calvillo.

However, at the end of the day Montreal needs more wins than losses and that is how Popp will be evaluated for the third time. Popp did feel this was the best move to make to get Montreal back on track.

"This is the best situation today. This is the best thing we can do today to get back in the direction we needed to go in," said Popp.

He has 13 games to prove he can steer the wobbly ship straight.

Jim Popp (Photo: The Canadian Press)


(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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