Canadian Football League

Friday, September 22, 2006

Is Don Matthews looking for another Canadian Football League team?

HERB ZURKOWSKY, The GazettePublished: Friday, September 22, 2006
Sunday's game at Molson Stadium against Winnipeg could be the last for Don Matthews as head coach of the Alouettes.
Even if the Als defeat the Blue Bombers to end their five-game losing streak and Matthews survives the season, all signs indicate 2006 will be The Don's final year in Montreal, despite having recently signed a contract extension through 2008.
Jim Barker, the general manager of the Calgary Stampeders and a former assistant coach with the Alouettes, has been contacted about Montreal's head coaching position by a member of the team's front office, a source told The Gazette.
"He received a call from someone in the Alouettes' office about the head coaching position," the source said. "It was an exploratory call.
"Obviously, people in the organization know him."
It wasn't clear when the call occurred, who made it or the timeline being discussed.
Barker was the Als' offensive co-ordinator and quarterback coach in 2002, Matthews's first season in Montreal. The Als captured the Grey Cup that season.
Several players from that team remain with the Alouettes, including quarterback Anthony Calvillo and slotback Ben Cahoon. Three assistant coaches from Matthews's 2002 staff also remain employed by Montreal. Barker was also the Als' offensive-line coach in 1996, so he is familiar with the organization.
Contacted yesterday in Calgary, Barker, 50, strongly denied the speculation.
"That's absolutely untrue," he said. "I won't comment until I hear from Don Matthews's mouth that he's not going to be there. No contact has been made. No one has talked to me."
Last night, Als president Larry Smith said: "I suggest that story is far-fetched."
It would take a sweet deal for Barker to return. As the Stamps' GM, he essentially is the head coach's boss and is likely reluctant to relinquish that power and security blanket. Calgary has an 8-5 record, the second-best in the CFL, and is considered a Cup contender this season. Also, Barker's history as a CFL head coach is less than distinguished.
Barker was Toronto's coach in 1999, coincidentally replacing Matthews after he departed to coach in Edmonton. But Barker lasted only one season, during which the Argonauts went 9-9. The team was sold in 2000, and Barker was replaced by John Huard while still holding the job; Barker reported for work and discovered the lock to his office had been changed.
Barker left the Alouettes following their championship to coach the Stamps in 2003, but Calgary lost 13 of 18 games, finishing last in the West Division. That led to his firing. He was rehired by the organization in 2005, after it had been sold.
"At this point, I'd say I don't want to coach," Barker said. "It would have to be a perfect situation, not a tenuous position like the two head coaching jobs I've had. I like it here."
Barker's contract expires
Jan. 31, 2008, but it contains an escape clause. Still, the Als or any other CFL team would require Calgary's permission before negotiations started.
"As long as I'm here, I want him here," Stamps president Ted Hellard said. "If someone was ever to approach him, we'd do everything possible to keep him. There's no circumstance I can paint where we wouldn't do everything possible to keep him. Of course, ultimately, being here is his decision."
Matthews, who turned 67 in June, is the CFL's winningest head coach, with 230 regular-
season victories. He also has five Cup wins as a head coach, including two with Toronto and one each with Baltimore and British Columbia. The Als have made it to the championship game in three of his four seasons with Montreal and have never had a losing record.
But this season has oscillated between good and bad for Matthews and his team. Montreal won its first seven games, only to lose the last five. That's the longest losing streak of Matthews's career as a head coach. The Als have been outscored
113-31 in the second half of games during the slump, an indication Matthews is being outcoached and the team isn't making adjustments at halftime.
The last time the Alouettes endured a similar slump was 2001, when the team lost its last eight games, including the East Division semifinal, following a 9-2 start. Rod Rust, the head coach at the time, was fired following the sixth straight defeat, replaced by general manager Jim Popp.
Even if the Als end their slump Sunday against a Winnipeg team that has lost five of its last six games, it appears Matthews is setting the stage for his departure.
He criticized Calvillo for his lack of mobility last Saturday, following a loss at Vancouver during which Montreal quarterbacks were sacked 12 times, a team record and one shy of a CFL mark. The comment was unusual for Matthews and indicates he has lost confidence in the player.
Also, CFL teams are entering an era in which a $4.1-million salary cap will be in effect. Teams whose payrolls exceed that figure will be penalized. It's believed Montreal will have to trade or release some players next season, making it potentially less competitive.
"People believe he's making plans to leave the Als' organization," another source said. "He has confided in people that he's strongly leaning toward leaving and has told people close to him it's probably his last year."

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Canadian Football League Week #15 Picks

Ti-Cats Vs. Eskimos

The Grey Cup Champs still have yet to win a game on the road, this game however is at
home and a Eskimos loss and the season is over.

Take the Eskimos by 16

Argos Vs. Stamps
While the Stamps looked pretty good last week against the Bombers, they did have problems
converting scoring chances into TD's. The Argos comming off a bye, are riding five game
win streak. This should be a close one.

Stamps by 5

Bombers vs. Als
The Als have lost five in a row. The Bombers have lost 5 of their last 6. The question will
be who makes the least amount of mistakes.
Als by 12

Lions Vs. Riders
The game of the week. Huge game for the Riders to stay ahead of the Eskimos in the

Riders by 7

Last Week 2-1 Over-All 32-18