New GM Reed aims to bring winning culture to struggling Alouettes
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MONTREAL — It only seems like new general manager Kavis Reed has done a complete makeover of the Montreal Alouettes.
The former special teams co-ordinator who replaced Jim Popp, the GM since 1996, has certainly put his stamp on the former CFL east powerhouse that has missed the playoffs the last two seasons.
Gone are star receiver S.J. Green, defensive lineman Alan-Michael Cash, linebacker Winston Venable, offensive lineman Jeff Perrett and a handful of others from the squad that finished 7-11 last season. In came veteran quarterback Darian Durant, receiver Ernest Jackson, offensive lineman Jovan Olafioye and more.
To many fans, it appears that a whole new team will take the field this season.
"The percentage of change is just under 25 per cent and that's probably normal attrition in the CFL off-season," Reed said Thursday. "We've deleted some guys we felt culturally didn't fit and we've deleted guys that contractually didn't fit.
"I don't think our percentage of change is much different from any other CFL team, but whenever you have a new regime you have an opportunity to transform the culture. What we're trying to establish is a very good football environment that has the mandate to be successful on the field."
The environment hasn't been much good in recent seasons for the team that used to dominate the East, making eight trips to the Grey Cup and winning three from 2000 to 2010. Since their last Grey Cup, the Alouettes are 1-4 in playoff games.
Owner Bob Wetenhall finally decided to cut ties with the only GM he ever employed, only to see Popp catch on with the rival Toronto Argonauts. And Popp immediately signed Marc Trestman, the last coach to win a Cup in Montreal. Green, Cash, Venable, Kyle Graves and others soon followed and will be wearing Argo blue next season.
Reed, who joined Montreal as special teams co-ordinator under Popp in 2015, was a surprise choice to replace him as GM on Dec. 14.
"The league is better with Jim Popp in it," said Reed. "He did a phenomenal job in Montreal.
"We're trying to recapture that championship attitude. It's a great opportunity for the Toronto Argonauts to see the reinvigorated genius part of Jim Popp."
Reed started with many of Popp's holdovers, including the linebacker trio of Bear Woods, Chip Cox and Kyries Hebert, long-standing defensive end John Bowman and receivers like Nik Lewis, B.J. Cunningham and Samuel Giguere. So it's not like the entire team has changed.
He opted to add the proven quarterback the Alouettes have lacked since Anthony Calvillo retired in 2013 by acquiring Durant and to rework the offensive line, which will have two American players as well as all-star Olafioye. Back-up quarterbacks Rakeem Cato and Jonathan Crompton are also gone.
He brought in Jackson, but Green, an Alouette since 2007 and one of the league's top pass-catchers in his heyday, had to go. Reed made sure Green's departure was done with the player's feelings in mind.
"We didn't want S.J. to be on the streets, cut and released and not have an opportunity to be in a familiar setting with people he's familiar with," said Reed. "So there was the human side of it. We didn't want to just coldly and blindly release him."
Reed is preparing for his first draft as GM on Sunday. The Alouettes traded their first round pick, third overall, to British Columbia last season for quarterback Vernon Adams. Montreal's top pick is 12th overall, but he may try to trade up if a player they want is available.
It is also former receiver Eric Deslauriers' debut as draft director.
A career Alouette, Deslauriers got an inside look at the management shakeup and the changes that followed.
"All good things come to an end," he said. "Unfortunately for Jim, it was his last season with us.
"I have nothing negative to say about him. Sometimes change is just needed."