Popp goes the world

BRENNAN WAYNE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:12 AM ET

Put your thinking caps on ladies and gentlemen, it's time for a Popp quiz.

Which CFL general manager has the best overall record over the last 12 years, helped the 1995 Baltimore Stallions establish an all-time league record for wins in a season with 18 (including playoffs and the Grey Cup) and has never been part of a team with a losing record?

You're correct if you answered Jim Popp of the Montreal Alouettes.

Currently entering his second season as the Alouettes' head coach, and 12th season as their general manager, Popp has compiled quite an impressive resume during his 15 years in the league. His teams have won two league championships, appeared in seven Grey Cups, 12 division title games, and they have never missed the playoffs.

A native of Elkin, N.C., 42-year-old Popp first came north of the border in 1992 to work as the Saskatchewan Roughriders director of player personnel and wide receivers coach. After a successful two-year stint with the Green and White, Popp served as assistant general manager and director of player personnel with the expansion Baltimore Stallions for two seasons. The Stallions achieved record-breaking success under Popp, as they appeared in two consecutive Grey Cup games in 1994 and 1995. They remain the only American team to have won the Grey Cup, a feat accomplished in '95.

Baltimore folded following its championship season, only to relocate to Montreal and reincarnate the Alouettes. Popp remained general manager of the team and has since helped build the Als into the CFL's most successful franchise of the last decade. Popp has certainly experienced his share of highs since joining the league, but that doesn't make picking a career highlight any easier.

"I was in Saskatchewan starting out and it was great to get that thing turned around," said Popp last week. "Then working with an expansion team in Baltimore and taking them to the Grey Cup, that was really something. Then here in Montreal, going from an expansion team to finally getting over the humps of division championship games, and getting into the Grey Cup, and then to finally win one. Those are all highlights."

Ready to roll in his first full season as head coach, Popp, who took over the coaching duties for Don Matthews late last season, is now looking to make a name for himself calling plays from the sideline. In 2006, he helped turn around a floundering Alouettes team that won its first seven games, but lost eight of its next 11 to limp into the playoffs. The players responded well to his coaching style though, and Montreal found itself in the Grey Cup for the fifth time in seven years. A solid finish to the season is what brought Popp back for more in 2007.

"I wouldn't be sitting here if I didn't feel like I did a good job and our owner and president didn't think I did a good job, along with the players and fans," said Popp. "I had a lot of fun, and players reacted well to me. People had totally given up on our team and then we're there playing for a Grey Cup championship, so all-in-all I think we all did a good job."

Having been so close to a CFL title last season, Popp said he has definitely caught the coaching bug but that it's not a job he is taking for granted. Popp coached five seasons at the collegiate level in the United States prior to sinking his teeth into Canadian football, so he's well aware of what it takes to win.

"I've done a lot of what I've done personally, along with the growth of this organization, strictly off hard work," said Popp. "Nothing comes easy to have success. You have to work your tail off, and sometimes I work stupid hours. I go long, long, long hours with very little sleep, but I love what I do."

Popp's hardworking attitude will once again ensure Montreal is a threat in the East Division this year, and although the season is barely a week old, Popp can already envision another Grey Cup appearance.

"I'm not a fortune teller, but I expect to be a team that is very competitive, just like we have been for the 11 previous years, with a chance to win our division and go to the Grey Cup. That's how I see our football team.

"From my end, I expect to go to the Grey Cup every year and win. That's my goal, that's what I expect. I think we're that talented to do that year in and year out ... We say we are going to win, we preach we are going to win, and we expect to win when we go on the field."

If history is any indication of how Montreal will fare this season under general manager and coach Popp, you can expect to see the Alouettes playing football come November.


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