Scott Milanovich came to Anthony Calvillo's defence Thursday.
The Toronto Argonauts head coach said the media criticism Calvillo has endured this season is unfair and the veteran quarterback's critics have been too quick to forget his many achievements in his 16 seasons with the Montreal Alouettes.
"I've had a hard time watching what's going on with Anthony, particularly the heat he has taken from the media," Milanovich told reporters in his news conference prior to Friday night's game with Calgary. "The guy is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and has held that organization on his shoulders for years and years.
"I feel like it's not fair to him. That's from an outsider that at one point was his coach and even today still feels protective of him."
Calvillo, who turns 41 on Friday, missed Montreal's game Thursday night with B.C. due to a concussion suffered in Sunday's 24-21 loss to Saskatchewan. Third-year veteran Josh Neiswandermade his first CFL star in Calvillo's absence, but was replaced by rookie QB Tanner Marsh in the Alouettes' 39-38 rally over the B.C. Lions on Thursday night.
But the injury to Calvillo just adds to the challenge of what's been a season to forget so far for the struggling Alouettes (3-5).
The six-foot-one, 200-pound Calvillo, in his 20th CFL season and pro football's all-time passing leader, is sixth among league passers with 1,322 yards. Calvillo began the 2013 campaign with a career completion percentage of 62.5 per cent but this year has completed 115-of-196 passes (58.7 per cent) with six TDs and five interceptions.
That's a far cry from Calvillo's production the five previous seasons under former head coach Marc Trestman, now with the NFL's Chicago Bears, and Milanovich, who was Montreal's offensive co-ordinator from 2008-'11 before becoming Toronto's head coach.
Calvillo, a five-time CFL all-star and 10-time East Division selection, surpassed the 5,000-yard passing plateau three times over that span and in '08 had a career-high 43 TD passes. He also won two Grey Cups, two CFL outstanding player awards and was named a league all-star three times.
This season, Montreal's offence is ranked last in total yards (280 per game), passing yards (214.6), completion percentage (56.6) and second-last in scoring (22.3 points per game). New coach Dan Hawkins was fired after just five games and replaced on an interim basis by GM Jim Popp.
But predictably a lot of the criticism for the Alouettes' offensive woes this season has been directed at Calvillo.
Milanovich earned two Grey Cup rings with Montreal before leading Toronto to a CFL championship last year. He said there's much more to appreciate about Calvillo than just his ability to play football.
"I know what kind of person he is, what kind of man he is so I don't like to hear those sorts of things," Milanovich said. "As a friend, a concussion is always scary.
"I don't know the specifics of how serious it was or how long he'll be out or what his status was on the sidelines. I sent him a text this week (to say) I was thinking of him. I'm always concerned for those guys."