Anthony Calvillo's optimism last week about being able to return from the concussion he suffered in August by the end of the regular season appears to have been misplaced. Montreal Alouettes' head coach and general manager Jim Popp told media Friday that Calvillo has suffered a setback in his recovery and won't be available for the rest of the year. Here are some of the tweets detailing what's happened:
— Montreal Alouettes (@MTLAlouettes) October 18, 2013
#Als' QB Anthony Calvillo has suffered another setback and won't return to the field this season, GM and coach Jim Popp announced today.
— Herb Zurkowsky (@HerbZurkowsky1) October 18, 2013
— David William Naylor (@TSNDaveNaylor) October 18, 2013
The immediate implications for the Alouettes aren't good. After all, this is a 6-9 team that just lost to basement-dwelling Winnipeg. This team was far from perfect even with Calvillo, especially before they fired Dan Hawkins and Popp stepped in, but with the CFL's all-time leading passer under centre, they were at least an intriguing underdog with the potential to perhaps make something happen in the postseason. Without Calvillo, though, they have tons of talent in the receiving corps, but the question is who's going to get them the ball? Tanner Marsh was okay but far from spectacular before he got hurt, while Josh Neiswander has largely underwhelmed, which is why the Alouettes will be starting former Heisman Trophy winner and CFL rookie Troy Smith Sunday against Hamilton despite those other two players being available.
While Smith has a nice arm and plenty of potential, though, it often takes a long while for quarterbacks to adapt to the Canadian game and its differences (including 12-a-side, three downs, a bigger field and unlimited motion). Smith has only been with Montreal for just over two months, and that doesn't bode particularly well. Of course, the Alouettes were always going to be longshots in the postseason this year given their year-long struggles. Heck, there's still even a slim chance they might not make it there; if they lose their last three games and the Blue Bombers win their last three, Winnipeg's in instead of Montreal. It's probable the Alouettes will still get into the playoffs given the Bombers' struggles, but their chances once there look even weaker with any quarterback other than Calvillo.
The more important question may be what this means for next year, though. We don't know how severe this setback is or if it will persist after the season, but there's certainly the possibility it could be enough to convince Calvillo to retire. If he retires, his legacy's obviously secure; he'll be remembered as one of the best CFL quarterbacks ever, as the league's all-time leading passer and as a guy who survived incredible odds over a 20-year career in Canadian football (to say nothing of his high school and college days before that). His retirement wouldn't seem great for Montreal at this point, though; while Calvillo will turn 42 next year, he still seems like a better and much more proven quarterbacking option than anyone else they have. Perhaps Smith or one of the other Alouettes' pivots steps up and dazzles, or perhaps they join Winnipeg and Ottawa as teams looking to acquire starting quarterbacks this offseason. Either way, though, they would seem to be in a weaker spot in 2014 without Calvillo. However, Calvillo has overcome long odds and severe health issues to come back before; Montreal should be hoping he's willing and able to do so again.