For years, Montreal Alouettes fans have had to deal with offseason rumours that they might lose head coach Marc Trestman to the NFL or the NCAA. Things have been quiet on the Trestman front this offseason, but now Montreal fans are faced with rumours about another key piece of the Alouettes' organization, general manager Jim Popp. The Indianapolis Colts recently fired team president Bill Polian and his son, general manager Chris Polian, so they're in the market for a new GM, and team owner Jim Irsay announced on Twitter that Popp will be a candidate they'll consider. If he goes south to Indianapolis, that could be a huge loss for Montreal.
Popp has been arguably the most important figure in the dominance of the Alouettes since their return to the CFL, but his impressive career goes back even before that. He started as an assistant coach and director of player personnel with Don Matthews' Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1992, then took over as the general manager and director of player personnel with Matthews and the expansion Baltimore franchise in 1994. Baltimore made the Grey Cup that year, losing to B.C., but they returned to the big game in 1995 and beat Calgary, becoming the only American franchise ever to lift the Grey Cup. Interestingly enough, the Baltimore CFL team initially wanted to use the "Colts" nickname in honour of the city's NFL team that Irsay's father Robert had moved to Indianapolis, but Robert Irsay sued them to prevent that; they initially went with "Baltimore Football Club", but then became the Baltimore Stallions in 1995.
The team moved to Montreal in 1996 in response to the NFL returning to Baltimore, and Popp continued in his role as general manager with tremendous success. Since 1996, Montreal has made the playoffs every year, played in 13 of 15 division title games, made eight trips to the Grey Cup and lifted the CFL's top trophy three times, including back-to-back wins in 2009 and 2010. Overall, Popp has four Grey Cup victories and has been to the big game eight times. His teams are an incredible 213-110-1 in 18 regular seasons, and he's only had one campaign below .500 (2007's 8-10 mark).
Popp has stepped in at head coach occasionally and done reasonably well, but he's been even more remarkably impressive and consistent on the personnel side, continually finding gems in the rough like Brandon Whitaker (the league's top rushing back in 2011) and Jamel Richardson (the league's top receiver in 2011). With a record of talent evaluation like that, he could be a great fit for the Colts. If the job's offered to him, it would seem almost certain he'd take it, too; Popp may be under contract through 2014 with Montreal, but NFL GM jobs pay much more than CFL ones, and the Colts could probably buy Popp out of his Montreal contract without much difficulty.
However, Popp won't necessarily be picked for the job. The Colts clearly have several people in mind still, as Irsay also tweeted that they plan to interview seven candidates by Monday. Furthermore, CFL GM to NFL GM isn't a particularly typical career move, and most of the other candidates have substantially more NFL experience. Thus, Popp is anything but a lock to take over in Indianapolis, so Montreal fans don't need to panic yet. Worrying is perfectly reasonable, though. If the Colts want him as GM, he'd likely go, and he might even jump if they offer him an assistant GM role (which could pay as much or more as his current job, while holding substantially more potential for advancement). If Popp goes, the Alouettes will lose one of the CFL's best talent evaluators, and those guys aren't easy to replace.