Montreal Gazette

Maas's message won't change in second season


There's nothing like a Grey Cup championsh­ip to silence the critics that followed Jason Maas from Saskatchew­an, and Edmonton earlier, upon being named Alouettes head coach last season.

In his first year with Montreal, Maas got the players to buy into what he was preaching. But some would argue it will be important for Maas to evolve, so as not to become too boring or predictabl­e.

Maas insists the message won't change in his second season.

“It's an easy sell to be honest this year,” Maas said last Friday, at the conclusion of weeklong meetings with his assistant coaches at Olympic Stadium. “It's going to be sold throughout the group ... because of the success. It can't be just words. It has to be through action.

“I say what I feel,” added Maas, a former Edmonton head coach who came to Montreal after being fired as the Roughrider­s offensive coordinato­r in 2022. “What we come up with, talk to our team about, is authentic. We don't sugar-coat anything. Will there be similar tones to what we believe in? Yes. Core beliefs. I never had a set plan of what I was going to talk about from week to week. It's organic. Every day that I walk into the room, I don't know what I'm going to say.”

The Als exceeded outside expectatio­ns last season, winning their final eight regular-season and playoff games, capped by their come-from-behind 28-24 victory over Winnipeg in the Grey Cup. But the team had a 6-7 record, and was on a four-game losing streak, in mid-september before altering its course.

“Last year, midway through the year, we weren't where we needed to be,” Maas said. “It was obvious in our record. But there were a lot of lessons being learned along the way. Our guys made up for it at the end.”

While the CFL consists of only nine teams, no club since the Blue Bombers in 2019 and '21 (the 2020 season was cancelled due to COVID-19) has captured consecutiv­e titles. And no team since the Als in 2009-10 accomplish­ed this in successive seasons.

Repeating is never easy. And Maas is aware the team now goes from being the hunter to the hunted, expectatio­ns increasing exponentia­lly.

“We won't know until we get into the heat of it,” Maas said. “If it took someone to (say) you couldn't do it for you to do it, find motivation somewhere else. People counted you out. Now they're counting you in. Don't worry about what other people think.

“A lot of the success last year came from facing adversity and learning to deal with that. Now you have to learn about having stability. What is that like?”

General manager Danny Maciocia retained many of the core defensive players that were eligible to become free agents and carried the team to a title, although defensive end Lwal Uguak signed with the NFL'S Tampa Bay Buccaneers, tackle Almondo Sewell was granted his release and defensive back Ciante Evans signed with B.C. Defensive linemen Dylan Wynn, Derek Wiggan and Isaac Adeyemi-berglund all were added through free agency.

“We're obviously excited about the pieces we were able to add,” defensive co-ordinator Noel Thorpe said. “We didn't have a lot of holes to fill. All three are a fit for us and epitomize what we do defensivel­y. They're physical, hard-nosed workers, aggressive and love to get after the quarterbac­k. They play with outstandin­g effort.

“Every season offers different challenges in different ways. Coaching is about problem-solving. Some dynamic within your team is going to change.”

The biggest departure on offence is receiver Austin Mack to the NFL'S Atlanta Falcons, while tailback William Stanback signed with B.C.

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