Canadian Football League

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Is Don Matthews Canadian Football League Coaching Career Over?

Mysterious health reasons have forced Don Matthews to step down as head coach of the Montreal Alouettes.
The team did not make public the specific nature of the illness but team president Larry Smith says it's not life-threatening.
"He had some health issues that were affecting his ability to perform," Smith said during a news conference Wednesday. "This is not a life-threatening situation but it is important for him as an individual and human being to be able to make some conscious decisions."
Matthews, 67, was not at the team's practice Wednesday, which was held a couple of hours before the announcement.
General manager Jim Popp will take over as head coach. It's the second time Popp has assumed coaching duties. He took over late in the 2001 season when Rod Rust was fired. Montreal began that campaign by winning nine of its first 11 games, then didn't win another.
Smith said Matthews informed him as well as owner Robert Wetenhall and Popp about his health issues a month ago.
"Mr. Matthews took the initiative to come to us 30 days ago to tell us 'Look, I'm not well, if you guys want me to stay around I will, if you don't, I'll go,"' Smith said, adding the decision to have Matthews stay was made "not just because of what he did for organization but for what he represents to the players.
"I can assure you from Mr. Wetenhall, to myself to Jim, that Mr. Matthews was not fired."
The Alouettes (8-6) are tied with Toronto for first in the East Division. They ended a six-game losing streak with a victory on Friday night in Winnipeg after opening this year by winning their first seven contests.
"As an organization, clearly we're saddened by this because if you keep this in perspective, he's fulfilled every obligation asked of him," said Smith. "I think the record speaks for itself with three Grey Cup visits in his period with us."
Matthews was let go as head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos prior to the 2001 season for unspecified health reasons but resurfaced the following year as Montreal's head coach.
However, Popp suggested this could be the end of Matthews' coaching career.
"He's always told myself and Bob and Larry when his day was done and he felt he was done and finished, he never wanted a press conference, he was just going to walk away so he got to do what he wanted to do," Popp said. "I'm happy for him."
Popp will remain the club's head coach through to the end of the season and said he won't change much with the team.
"I'm not Don Matthews," he said. "I'll have my own style, there won't be a lot of change, we'll continue doing things as we have, we've had tremendous success.
"Obviously I'll have my own twist to things and that's what a head coach is supposed to do. This is a great opportunity for our assistant coaches . . . they've got to step up to the plate and it's on their shoulders to make the right decisions." There were reports two weeks ago with Montreal in the midst of a six-game losing streak that this would be Matthews' final season with the Alouettes. But the team denied it had spoken to Calgary Stampeders GM Jim Barker about taking over, talk that Barker also vehemently denied.
Matthews was named head coach of the Alouettes during Grey Cup week in 2001 and took Montreal to its first championship in 25 years the following season.
Matthews has won 66 games and lost only 28 in his nearly five seasons in Montreal, taking the Alouettes to the Grey Cup game three times.
The Amesbury, Mass., native, who recently became a Canadian citizen, broke Frank Clair's record of 147 regular-season wins by a CFL head coach while with Toronto in 1997. He leaves with 231 career wins as well as 13 post-season victories and five Grey Cups as a head coach.
The former U.S. Marine and former linebacker at the University of Idaho entered the CFL as an assistant coach in Edmonton in 1977 and was promoted to defensive co-ordinator the following season.
He was part of the Eskimos dynasty that won five straight Grey Cups from 1978 to 1982.
He jumped to the B.C. Lions in 1983, moved on to Toronto in 1990 and took over in mid-season as head coach in Saskatchewan in 1991, the only year of his coaching career that his team did not make the playoffs.
In 1995, he won a Grey Cup with the Baltimore Stallions - the team that would move to Montreal and become the Alouettes in 1996.
Matthews did not follow the team to Montreal, but returned to Toronto and led an Argos team that featured quarterback Doug Flutie to consecutive Grey Cup titles ('96-'97).


Post a Comment

<< Home