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Montreal Alouettes taking a long time to settle coaching situation

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It’s been three months since the Montreal Alouettes’ season ended. Three months since the players parted ways for the off-season, a miserable campaign officially a thing of the past.

Three months – and still no announcement on a head coach.

Speculation is that general manager Jim Popp will once again pull double duty as he did from Aug. 1 onward after firing Dan Hawkins. In the team’s press release announcing the re-signing of free agent offensive lineman Josh Bourke on Feb. 11, Popp was referred to as both GM and head coach.

But still no confirmation of any kind from the team.

Two days before Anthony Calvillo announced his retirement in January, the Alouettes sent out a statement from owner Bob Wetenhall on the coaching situation. It was done in order to avoid questions on the matter on Calvillo’s day.

“I am currently taking the time necessary to review all the options and opportunities with respect to both the position of Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator of our team for the coming year,” it said. “We always want these decisions to be informed and well thought out, as they have far reaching affects on our organization, how we run our franchise and our ability to sustain our on-field success over the long-term.”

A year ago at this time, the Alouettes were a few days shy of introducing Hawkins. It came one month after Marc Trestman had been hired by the Chicago Bears. When the day finally came, Hawkins was presented along with his entire staff.

Waiting to get the entire coaching staff settled last year was understandable, with essentially an entire group to put together. This year, however, the bulk of the Alouettes’ 2014 staff is set. The lone exception? No offensive coordinator after opting not to retain Mike Miller or Doug Berry, an announcement that was made back at the end of November.

So, what’s taking so long?

Only the Alouettes – namely Wetenhall, president Mark Weightman and Popp – know. But the fact is time is ticking. The team’s annual spring mini-camp is just over two months away (typically scheduled in April). Preparations for it are likely already ongoing – one would think – but without a coaching announcement, it’s easy to presume otherwise.

The East Division is no longer Montreal’s to roost. The Toronto Argonauts have company as the Alouettes’ primary competition in the resurgent Hamilton Tiger-Cats. And the Ottawa RedBlacks, despite being an expansion franchise, have set themselves up to at least try to be competitive.

Popp has been doing his part on the GM front, retaining nearly all of his free agents while repatriating the likes of Dave Stala, Diamond Ferri and Jermaine McElveen. The Alouettes had a fairly lengthy list when it came to their own free agents, which certainly would take up quite a bit of Popp’s time. Still, there has been more than enough time for all those involved in the coaching decision to come to terms (if it is Popp) or make a hire.

The other CFL teams looking for coaches, of which there have been quite a few – whether head coaches or members of the staff – have settled their sideline situations. Yet three and a half months before training camp for the 2014 season is set to open, nary a hint as to who will guide the Alouettes and who will handle the team’s offence.

A curious decision, to say the least.

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