New Montreal Alouettes coach a familiar face
Jeff Reinebold will be replaced by the returning Noel Thorpe
MONTREAL — The optics don’t lie. Hired in February, Jeff Reinebold was fired in November, the Alouettes electing not to renew their defensive coordinator’s contract when it expires, Dec. 31. He’ll be replaced by Noel Thorpe, the team announced on Wednesday. And like most things, perception is everything.
The Als finished first in the East Division but, despite an 11-7 record, Montreal’s defence allowed more points, 489, than it scored. So Reinebold is being assailed. But in Toronto, where the Argonauts finished 9-9 and allowed 491 points, defensive coordinator Chris Jones is looked upon as a genius, his team winning the Grey Cup last Sunday.
“Where our team is and the personality of our team, it merited us moving forward,” head coach Marc Trestman said from his home in Raleigh, N.C. “As much as it appears on the surface to do with Jeff, it just as much doesn’t. I could turn it around and say why it was the right hire. We won the east and did a lot of good things defensively.
“Things like this do happen. It doesn’t mean it was a failure,” Trestman added. “It’s not like we were 7-11 or 4-14. If (Reinebold’s hiring) is perceived as a mistake ... at the end of the day we still won the east and we had to play reasonably well collectively or it wouldn’t have happened — and that includes defensively.”
Nonetheless, Reinebold’s future appeared tenuous when he walked off the field following Montreal’s 27-20 loss to Toronto in the division final. The Als allowed Ricky Ray to pass for 400 yards — more than half of that total coming from Chad Owens. And Chad Kackert rushed for 139 yards. Defensively, the Als never adjusted. If anything, the problem continued to fester, Montreal simply having no answer for stopping Owens, named the Canadian Football League’s most outstanding player last week.
Trestman denied Reinebold’s fate was tied to one game. Nonetheless, it took him barely more than a week before deciding to move in another direction. Trestman refused to comment on whether he relied on any input from defensive players before taking his decision. Asked specifically whether this came down to a coaching problem and poor schemes, Trestman again, following a long pause, refused comment.
“I did an assessment of our season,” he said. “I felt it was in the best interest of the team to move forward.”
Trestman also denied Reinebold’s personality or character swayed his decision. What is known, from various sources, is the fact Reinebold interviewed well last winter, just as he had 15 years earlier, when he was hired as Winnipeg’s head coach. The interview process carries much impact with Trestman. But sometimes, the brilliance a coach exudes while being interrogated doesn’t carry over into meeting rooms or onto the field.
“Jeff’s a very good coach and a very good person,” Trestman said. “We all come from different places and perspectives. We’re moving forward for a number of different reasons. A change is being made because we didn’t get as much out of it (defensively) as I thought we could. Jeff worked very hard and did the best he could.”
Thorpe, 41, rejoins the Als almost five years to the day after he left the organization. He was with the team from 2002-07, serving as special teams coordinator and defensive backs coach. He then moved to Edmonton for three seasons, working in the same capacities, before spending the last two years at the collegiate level, with the Université de Montréal Carabins. He was promoted to defensive coordinator this past season after working with the secondary and special teams players.
With his vast knowledge of special teams, not to mention nine years of CFL experience, Thorpe should prove invaluable to Trestman and Andy Bischoff, Montreal’s special teams coordinator. And, given Thorpe’s background and familiarity with Als general manager Jim Popp, don’t be surprised if he’s Trestman’s eventual replacement. But that’s a story for another day.
Trestman and Thorpe have spoken before, but either Thorpe was under contract or the Als didn’t have an opening on their staff. Montreal required permission from the Carabins this time and, once received, Trestman acted swiftly.
“It was a very quick process, maybe hours,” said Thorpe, a Vancouver native who now makes his year-round home in Pointe-Claire.
Thorpe has coached rush-end John Bowman and linebacker Chip Cox. He first met Trestman in 2007, when Trestman was a guest coach at training camp, Thorpe an assistant on head coach Popp’s staff.
Thorpe said it’s too premature to comment on players, schemes or the defensive assistants he potentially inherits. Trestman said Thorpe will have the opportunity to talk to the coaches. He wants him to feel comfortable and know he has their trust.
“My immediate task is to watch film, players and get a good idea of personnel,” Thorpe said.
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