Nod for Noel from Als pals

In his seven seasons in the CFL, Noel Thorpe has only handled special teams and defensive secondary...

In his seven seasons in the CFL, Noel Thorpe has only handled special teams and defensive secondary coverage units. (Sun Media/Robert Taylor)

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:36 AM ET

If Noel Thorpe needs references on his application for the Edmonton Eskimos' vacant head coach position, Bryan Chiu and Scott Flory would be ideal.

The two highly respected Montreal Alouettes offensive linemen emerged yesterday with plenty of praise for Thorpe.

"Knowing Noel professionally and personally, I think he's an outstanding person and great coach," said Flory, a six-time CFL all-star.

"He's passionate but level-headed."

Flory, Chiu and Thorpe spent six years together (2002-07) in Montreal before the latter left to join Edmonton's coaching staff for the 2008 campaign.

"Guys are drawn to him and respect him. They see the amount of work he puts in," said Chiu, a seven-time CFL all-star.

"He's a people person and he can read people. That's one of the most important (things).

"He will call you out if you are a rookie or 10-year vet.

"He's pretty much an open book ... it's just like coach (Marc) Trestman."

The Alouettes rolled the dice - to some extent - when they hired Trestman to be their head coach this year.

If the Eskimos hire Thorpe to replace Danny Maciocia as bench boss before Christmas, there would also be a risk involved.

Critics will point to Thorpe having zero professional head-coaching or defensive/offensive co-ordinator experience.

But those who know him well don't buy those theories.

"You can't let the little things slide and he has got great attention to detail," continued Flory.

Thorpe is also known for making adjustments on the fly, which is another key skill in a head coach role.

In his seven seasons in the CFL, Thorpe has only handled special teams and defensive secondary coverage units.

But it's impossible to argue with his success.

In his six years with Montreal, he went to the Grey Cup four times.

He also tutored four East Division outstanding rookies - Etienne Boulay, Mathieu Proulx, Almondo Curry and Keith Stokes - in Montreal.

With the Eskimos as special teams co-ordinator and defensive backs coach this year, Thorpe turned Edmonton's kick/punt return game around with Tristan Jackson becoming the most feared returner in the CFL.

A Vancouver native, Thorpe isn't going to say anything of any relevance to the media during this search for a head coach.

A good friend of Maciocia's, Thorpe isn't going against the Esks' wish for management to be quiet.

While it's unclear who will make it to Edmonton's short-list of two or three candidates, Thorpe should be on it.

As the new general manager, Maciocia would work very well with Thorpe.

Sure, there's no way of telling how he will handle every aspect of being a head coach, but he already knows the talent in the locker-room and doesn't present a risk of having a personality clash with players.

Other strong points for Thorpe: learned under Don Matthews for five years in Montreal, was offered an interview for the head coach opening with the Als last fall and would surely still handle the Esks' special teams units as head coach.

It will come down to whether Maciocia and club president/CEO Rick LeLacheur want to take the gamble.

The Pittsburgh Steelers took a shot on Mike Tomlin - who had been a defensive backs coach for five years with Tampa Bay and defensive co-ordinator for one with Minnesota - when they hired him as bench boss.

Right now, the Steelers are 9-3 and heading in the right direction.


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