Firing your head coach a week before the season starts usually isn’t a recipe for success.
But don’t tell that to the Montreal Alouettes.
The Alouettes went 5-13 in 2018 but waited until the first week of June 2019 to part ways with head coach Mike Sherman in favour of Khari Jones. The move wasn’t a huge surprise, but the timing of it was. A month later, another key figure in the organization was shown the door, as general manager Kavis Reed was fired.
Many figured it would be yet another chapter in the decline of the Alouettes, a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2012. But instead, it’s September and the Als already have more wins than they did all of last season. They’re currently in second place in the East Division, with a 6-5 record.
"It’s an ‘only in the CFL’ situation," said Winnipeg Blue Bombers safety Jeff Hecht, a 10-year CFL veteran, after Thursday’s practice. "This doesn’t happen in other leagues. That’s what makes our league so unique — the parity. Not only can you turn a team around in one off-season, but you can turn a team around in a month. From the outside looking in, you know I don’t have the inside perspective, but talking to a few guys, they were in rough shape in training camp. And for them to do this is a testament to Khari Jones."
Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea also gave credit to Jones for turning the Als around and putting them in position to potentially host a playoff game.
"I think he’s done a fantastic job," O’Shea said. "They seem to be playing with a lot of desire, energy and look like they’re having fun out there."
But the Bombers won’t be in Montreal on Saturday just to congratulate Jones on a job well done. Instead, the Blue and Gold are looking to get a road victory that would improve their record to 10-3 and clinch a playoff spot. The Bombers could also be guaranteed a spot in the playoffs if the Ottawa Redblacks fall to the B.C. Lions on Saturday. Hecht said he didn’t even know the Bombers could clinch a playoff spot on the weekend until he saw something about it on Twitter on Wednesday.
"The goal for us is to win the game this week," Hecht said. "The West (division) is tight. We’ve got six games left. There’s not a ton of season left, but that’s a lot of games and a lot of difference can be made as far as the standings. Obviously, the first goal is always playoffs. The second goal is to try to get the bye week (to division final). Being 1-0 this week is going to help us get there, and that’s what we need to focus on now."
In typical O’Shea fashion, the coach downplayed what it would mean to his group to clinch a playoff spot this early.
"Don’t think about it. We’ve got a lot of football left to play.
"This opponent is going to be tough to beat, so we have everything focused on that."
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.