If there was anyone who still needed proof that an impressive NFL resume alone doesn't necessarily lead to a long CFL career, the Montreal Alouettes' release of running back Dominic Rhodes Friday should quench that. Rhodes came in with a high profile, as he spent 10 years in the NFL, ran for 1,104 yards in just nine starts in 2001 and rushed for over 100 yards in the Indianapolis Colts' Super Bowl XLI win in 2007. However, as Herb Zurkowsky wrote in a feature on Rhodes earlier this week, many players with high NFL profiles have come to camp with Montreal in the past, but few have stuck around for too long:
Nonetheless, some eyebrows were raised in late March, when Montreal announced the signing of Rhodes. But it shoudn’t have come as a surprise. The scenario has often been repeated. Each winter, almost on an annual basis, general manager Jim Popp likes to make a splash by signing a well-known former NFL star.
Rhodes is just the latest, after Lawrence Phillips, Quincy Carter, Ahman Green, Joey Porter and Jarrett Payton, to name a few. Even this year, Rhodes is joined at camp by Wallace Wright and David Clowney.
Some have starred with the Als, albeit briefly, while others crashed and burned.
“The only reason we bring them in is we think they have a chance to compete and play,” Popp said. “Two seasons ago, he was the MVP of the UFL. If he was good enough to be in a one-back set, blocking for Peyton Manning, we should be able to trust that.”
Rhodes had that chance to compete and play, but he was always facing stiff odds. The Alouettes' crowded backfield (featuring Jerome Messam, Brandon Whitaker, Chris Jennings, Noel Devine and others) was one of the most interesting stories to watch heading into training camp, and it remains an intriguing battle even after Rhodes' exit. While Rhodes came in with unquestionably the greatest NFL resume of any of those options, he was also 34 and lacked the CFL experience of the others, forcing him to try and learn on the fly. Reports out of camp didn't suggest he was out of place, but it's not all that surprising that he wound up as the odd man out, especially considering that he didn't receive a carry in Thursday night's preseason game against Hamilton.
Some will unquestionably say that players like Rhodes are only brought in as a publicity stunt, but that doesn't seem quite fair to Popp. If a guy with Rhodes' record (or Green's, or Porter's, etc) is interested in taking a look at the CFL, why not see what they have left? Some of the bigger-name ex-NFLers have worked out decently for Montreal, including Phillips (a key figure on the legendary 2002 Alouettes) and Payton (a solid running back for the 2007 Alouettes). Most of them haven't, but that says positive things about the quality of the players in the CFL. Make no mistake, a guy like Rhodes is still an impressive football player. He's just not good enough to win a job in the crowded Montreal backfield, where a solid NFL resume can get you in the door, but may not be enough to keep you around for long.