Former Calgary head coach Tom Higgins is returning to the sidelines with Montreal.The Montreal Alouettes' announcement Monday (after Herb Zurkowsky broke the news) that they'd hired Tom Higgins as their new head coach would have been unforeseeable only a few months ago, but a strange group of aligning circumstances has led to a decision that could work out very well for the team (as long as they're able to retain general manager Jim Popp, something that isn't sure at this point). Popp did an excellent job after taking over the team's coaching job as well following the firing of Dan Hawkins after just five games, leading them to the playoffs despite a slew of injuries (including the loss of star quarterback Anthony Calvillo) and it looked like he would return as coach as well as general manager for 2014; TSN's Dave Naylor reported during Grey Cup week that the Alouettes had asked Popp to do so and that he was likely to accept. While the Alouettes' decision to turn to Higgins instead represents an unusual marriage and a potentially-perilous one, especially if they can't keep Popp, if they're able to have Higgins as HC and Popp as general manager, that perhaps has even more upside than having Popp retain both roles.
Why is this so odd? Well, Higgins, a former head coach in Edmonton and Calgary, was happily employed as the CFL's director of officiating through the 2013 season, but the league parted ways with him on December 5 (and while they said it was so he could pursue a coaching job, that's not how he saw it.) Meanwhile, the Alouettes' December decision to extend assistant coaches like Noel Thorpe and Ryan Dinwiddie made it seem even more likely that it would be Popp wearing the coaching headset again, as many outside coaches likely would have wanted to bring in their own staff. While the Popp move was never sealed, it seemed like the most likely move right up until this week, especially with so many other teams filling out their staffs, leaving few other options for Montreal. The Higgins hire came in as a curveball. That doesn't mean it won't work, though.Read More »from Tom Higgins returns to coaching with the Alouettes, an unusual move that could pay off—but only if Montreal can keep Jim Popp too