MONTREAL — The Montreal Alouettes will sink or swim with Darian Durant at quarterback.
There was little other choice but to stick with Durant despite a nightmarish performance last week in which the 35-year-old was pulled in favour of backup Drew Willy early in the second period after not only failing to complete any of his six pass attempts, but not coming close to his receivers.
The Alouettes (3-9) put up only 27 yards of offence in the first half of their 29-11 setback at home to the Ottawa Redblacks, which ran their losing streak to five games.
It was the first game with general manager Kavis Reed as head coach after he fired Jacques Chapdelaine and defensive co-ordinator Noel Thorpe.
The team went down without much of a fight. Now they have another key East Division game Saturday in Toronto and Durant will be behind centre.
“We want to quiet the noise around our franchise,” Reed said Wednesday. “Darian was brought in to be part of the solution and we still feel very strongly about him, so let’s work to put him in the best situation and make him feel that he doesn’t have to be Superman. He just has to be a part of it.
“Changing the quarterback creates more chaos around us. It creates a situation where we’re unstable again. We had a plan and we’ll stick to that plan.”
Reed’s big move when he was named GM to replace Jim Popp in the off-season was trading with Saskatchewan for Durant and inking him to a lucrative three-year contract. He was to be the proven veteran quarterback the Alouettes have sought since Anthony Calvillo retired after the 2013 season, but the offence has been worse than last season when it missed the playoffs for a second year in a row.
Willy was only somewhat better, completing 12 of 17 passes for 83 yards.
There was concern that the pressure of trying to carry the team on his shoulders was getting to Durant, but Reed feels they may have found the answer, although he won’t say what it is.
“Going back and seeing a lot of Darian’s first drives and then going back to his first drives in Saskatchewan when he was successful, I think we have a possible solution,” said Reed. “Now we work from that perspective.
“We made a commitment and an investment and we still believe that he’s the right guy, so we have to find the answer to that problem.”
Reed also hired 75-year-old Ken Miller as offensive consultant. Miller was head coach in Saskatchewan during some of Durant’s best years from 2008 to 2011, making trips to Grey Cup games in 2009 and 2010.
Miller has been watching video and talking to Durant.
“I’ve seen him hold the ball a little too much, which maybe is that he doesn’t have a lot of confidence in his decision making, so he holds the ball and gets sacked and his fundamentals break down a bit,” said Miller. “I’ve talked with him about fundamentals but also about confidence and being able to anticipate and getting the ball out on time.”
However, Durant said his confidence in himself is still high and his problems against Ottawa were mostly mechanical.
“Overstriding,” he said. “Rushing to get the ball to the receivers when I don’t have to.
“I have time to gather the laces and throw the ball. I don’t need to throw the ball without the laces. Making sure I get a good grip on it. But the main thing is overstriding. When you’re overstriding you lock out your front leg and the ball goes straight into the ground and that’s exactly what happened.”
Still, the losing and the growing chorus of boos from fans have to be eating at him.
“You hate losing, especially when you’re a leader and you feel like you could have done more to help the team,” said Durant. “It’s a bit frustrating but I’m not going to jump off a building or anything.
“I’m just going to keep plugging.”
It hasn’t helped that the Alouettes’ rebuilt offensive line has been hit with injuries. It should help that veteran guard Phillip Blake returns this week after six weeks on the injured list.
And there was a small sign of life at practice when linebacker Nicolas Boulay got into a fight — mostly pushing and shouting — with newcomer Reggie Northrup. More words were exchanged when defensive back Michael Carter tackled Samuel Giguere — a no-no in drills.
Durant wondered if a little emotion is what was lacking. He said he’d never been on a team that didn’t have at least one fight from training camp until this late in the season.
“Guys are tired of losing, so frustration is setting in a little bit and sparks are flying,” he said. “It’s part of football.
“Maybe that fight will spark us. Who knows?”