January 21, 2011
Once the Montreal Alouettes' Grey Cup victory celebrations settled down, it looked like they might have one of the league's rougher offseasons. Head coach Marc Trestman had been linked with every job from the University of Minnesota to the University of Miami to NFL head coaching or offensive coordinator jobs everywhere from San Francisco to Carolina, and with president Larry Smith also on his way out (not before tripping over the doorsill) and offensive coordinator Scott Milanovich strongly considered for the Saskatchewan Roughriders' job, it appeared the Alouettes' organization could look substantially different in 2011. They also had a league-high 13 potential free agents, including such notable players as S.J. Green (pictured at right) Chip Cox and Avon Cobourne. Throw in that their quarterback's still recovering from cancer surgery, and it looked like the Alouettes might be brought back to the pack a little.
Despite all that, the Alouettes have had perhaps the best off-season of any CFL franchise so far, and they haven't even had to do much. Sure, they lost Andrew Hawkins to the NFL, but he didn't play all that much last year. Far more importantly, they managed to get star receiver Green (875 yards and a team-high 10 receiving touchdowns on 58 receptions last season) to agree to a three-year extension this week. Green worked out for the Minnesota Vikings, Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles, and was widely regarded as one of the CFL players most likely to get an NFL deal. He apparently received an offer including a signing bonus from Philadelphia, but still decided to turn that down to head back to the CFL, and he didn't even opt to test the free-agency waters. Instead, he signed a two-year plus an option deal with the Alouettes. He's already a star in this league, and at 25, he should have many more good years ahead. Montreal fans should be thrilled that he'll likely continue to make catches like this one in Alouettes' colours:
It's not just Green coming back that reinforces Montreal's strong position, either. Keeping both Trestman and Milanovich on board (if both in fact do stay) is a huge boost; the two have combined to orchestrate one of the best offences this league's ever seen over the past three years. The Alouettes also should benefit from the rash of departures and other movements around the league. Star Calgary cornerback Brandon Browner signed with the Seattle Seahawks, league-leading receiver Andy Fantuz may be set to leave Saskatchewan for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and there could be plenty of other CFL players heading south, but Green seemed likely to be the main Alouette targeted. They could still lose key components in free agency, but they've got lots of depth as well; that seems to be the motivation behind the release of Paul Lambert.
In fact, the Alouettes even pulled off something no other CFL team has; they got a shout-out on yesterday's episode of the hit NBC sitcom 30 Rock, with Canadian character Danny Baker (played by American actor Cheyenne Jackson) displaying an Alouettes poster on his dressing-room wall. That led to a pretty funny exchange between Jackson and Jane Krakowski (pictured at right in front of the poster), with Jackson asking "What happened to my poster of the Montreal Alouettes? It's signed by Marc Trestman!" and Krakowski responding, "Oh, it's tacky, Danny, just like your mother's chain e-mail."
Not everything is completely rosy for the Alouettes. They did lose defensive coordinator Tim Burke to Winnipeg, and he had done an excellent job of beefing up their defence over the past couple of seasons. There's also still no further update on Calvillo's recovery, and the best receivers and coaches aren't all that great if they don't have a good quarterback. Furthermore, last season showcased quite a bit of parity, and Montreal didn't finish as far ahead of the Eastern pack as they have in the past. Still, it's been a pretty good couple of weeks for them. You might not want to tear down your Marc Trestman-signed Alouettes posters just yet, as they should still be a team to watch out for in 2011.