|Born:||December 21, 1964|
Elkin, North Carolina
|Position(s)||Vice President, General Manager, Director of Football Operations, Director of Player Personnel, Head Coach, Assistant Coach|
|College||Michigan State University|
|High school||Mooresville High School, Mooresville, North Carolina|
|1991-1992||Professional Spring Football League (PSFL) (Director of Player Personnel)|
|1992–1993||Saskatchewan Roughriders (Director of Player Personnel)|
|1994–1995||Baltimore Stallions (GM, Director of Player Personnel)|
|1996–2016||Montreal Alouettes (VP, GM, Dir. of FB Opts, Dir. of Player Personnel)|
|2017–2019||Toronto Argonauts (GM)|
|1986||Michigan State (Assistant Coach)|
|1987||North Carolina (Assistant Coach)|
|1988–1990||The Citadel (QB, RB, WR)|
|1991||NFL Europe (WLAF)- Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks (WR, Special Teams Coordinator, Strength & Conditioning]])|
|1992–1993||Saskatchewan Roughriders (WR)|
|2001||Montreal Alouettes (HC)|
|2006–2007||Montreal Alouettes (HC)|
|2013||Montreal Alouettes (HC)|
|2015–2016||Montreal Alouettes (HC)|
|1983–1985||Michigan State University|
|Career highlights and awards|
Inducted into Sports Hall-of-Fame, 2011 Sports Executive-of-the-Year, 5 Grey Cup Championships,
|Awards||2008 Sports Hall-of-Fame, 2011 Sports Executive of the Year, 2019 Legacy of Leadership Award|
|Honours||5x Grey Cup champion – (1995, 2002, 2009, 2010, 2017), 18 Divisional Championship appearances, 11 Grey Cup appearances|
James Thomas Popp (born December 21, 1964) is an American sports executive and a Canadian football icon, who has been recognized as one of the brightest minds in professional sports, known for his ability to both build expansion teams and rebuild established franchises into championship organizations. Popp has the uncanny ability to hire, develop, mentor top executives, coaches, and players that are spread across North America. Popp most recently was the general manager of the Toronto Argonauts football club of the Canadian Football League (CFL). He had previously served as Vice President, General Manager, Head Coach, Director of Football Operations, and Director of Player Personnel of the Montreal Alouettes, General Manager and Director of Player Personnel of the Baltimore Stallions, and the Director of Player Personnel and Wide Receiver Coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Popp has become one of the most decorated General Managers in professional sports, leading three separate franchises to a total of 5 Grey Cups championship wins (1995 with the Baltimore Stallions; 2002, 2009, 2010 with the Montreal Alouettes; 2017 with the Toronto Argonauts) and his teams have appeared in 18 Divisional Championship games, 11 Grey Cups (the most appearances in a championship game by any General Manager in professional sports).
Front Office Executive
Under Popp's guidance, his Canadian Football League teams have won 310 games (an average of more than 11 wins per season), reached the playoffs 24 of 28 seasons, advancing to the Divisional Championship game 18 times. Popp's teams have appeared in 11 Grey Cup championship games, winning the Grey Cup 5 times. In January 2012, Popp was a finalist for the vacant Indianapolis Colts General Manager position, between himself and Ryan Grigson., In February 2013, Popp found himself in a similar position as a finalist for the vacant General Manager position with the Carolina Panthers, between himself and Dave Gentleman. In January 2013, Popp was also a candidate for the vacant General Manager position with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New York Jets. Popp has had job offers and interviews from other NFL teams including Cleveland, Seattle, Tampa Bay, and Washington.
The 2009 and 2010 Alouettes back-to-back Grey Cup championships were the first back-to-back CFL titles in 13 years. Popp's teams have been some of the most successful in CFL history.
- Considered by many as the most successful General Manager in CFL history.
- Has appeared in 11 Championship Games as a General Manager, more than any other executive in pro sports.
- One of the longest serving General Managers with one team in sports history (21 season's with Montreal Alouettes).
- The only team to ever win 18 games in a CFL season (Baltimore Stallions – including the final 13 in a row).
- The first General Manager in CFL history to have won 12 or more games in 7 consecutive seasons.
- One of three teams in a CFL history to have won 17 games in one season.
- Managed the 2nd most successful pro franchise in any sport over two decades (1996-2016), only behind New England Patriots.
- Ranks 2nd all-time in win total as a General Manager in CFL history.
- Ranks 1st all-time with 5 Grey Cup Championships as a General Manager in CFL history.
- Ranks 1st all-time with 18 Divisional Championship appearances by a General Manager in CFL history.
- Popp was named 2011 Sports Executive of the Year by Sports Media Canada.
- Legacy of Leadership Honor 2019.
- Mooresville Sports Hall-of-Fame.
Pro Football (1991-present)
Canadian Football League (1992-2019)
Saskatchewan Roughriders (1992-1993)
Popp was the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ Director of Player Personnel and Wide Receivers coach under Coach Don Matthews in 1992-1993. The Roughriders had two successful seasons while he was in Saskatchewan, appearing in the playoffs both years.
Baltimore Stallions (1994-1995)
Popp served as the General Manager and Director of Player Personnel of the Baltimore Stallions in 1994-1995. In 1995, the Stallions established an all-time CFL record for wins in a season with a combined 18-3 record, including the regular season, playoffs and Grey Cup. The Stallions won their last 13 games in-a-row, captured the regular season crown, Southern Division Championship, and remain the only American team to have won the Grey Cup. The 1995 Stallions team had a total of 14 players sign NFL contracts and surprised no one by winning the championship.
The 1994 Stallions have the distinction of being the most successful expansion franchise in the history of professional team sports, going 12-6, winning the East Division Championship, and appearing in the 1994 Grey Cup Championship game.
After two Grey Cup appearances (including one championship), the team was forced out of Baltimore when the NFL started the Baltimore Ravens.
Montreal Alouettes (1996-2016)
Popp was named Vice President, General Manager, Director of Football Operations, and Director of Player Personnel of the Montreal Alouettes in January 1996 and held that position for an astonishing 21 seasons. Baltimore Stallions owner Jim Speros decided to relocate his team to Montreal as the second incarnation of the Alouettes, after being forced out of Baltimore when the NFL started the Baltimore Ravens. Popp found himself having to rebuild the team from almost nothing. While the Alouettes were allowed to reclaim the legacy of the original 1946-86 Alouettes, they were not allowed to keep their history as the Stallions. However, while all of the Stallions players were released from their contracts and 14 of those players were signed by the NFL, Popp was able re-signed several key players from that team. The 1996 Expansion Montreal Alouettes team went on to have a 12-6 record and appear in the Eastern Division Championship game.
Popp reached the East Division Championship 15 out of 21 season, 8 Grey Cup appearances (2000,2002, 2003,2005,2006,2008,2009,and 2010, capturing the Grey Cup title 3 times (2002, 2009, 2010). He led the Alouettes to 5 consecutive seasons of 12 or more victories; the Alouettes are one of only three teams in CFL history to have accomplished that feat. If you date back two years earlier, Popp’s teams accomplished this 7 consecutive years, becoming the first General Manager or team to have accomplished this. Of the three CFL coaches ever to win back-to-back Coach-of-the-Year honors, two did so working under Popp’s guidance (Don Matthews 1994-1995 and Charlie Taaffe 1999-2000). Jim’s hiring also produced the first NFL head coach in 45 years, Marc Trestman, that made a direct crossover from the CFL to the NFL since Bud Grant went to the Minnesota Vikings in 1967.
After operating the CFL’s most successful franchise over the last two decades, Popp is recognized as the most successful General Manager in the history of the Canadian Football League. In 2011, Jim was named Execute of the Year in Canada. Popp has held the titles of Vice President, General Manager, Head Coach, Director of Football Operations, and Director of Player Personnel during his distinguished CFL career.
Toronto Argonauts (2017-2019)
Popp was hired as the General Manager of the Toronto Argonauts on February 28, 2017. He took over a team that had lost 11 consecutive games the year prior and finished with a record of 5-13. Popp was handed the task to rebuild the team into a Grey Cup winner and as he has done in the past, he delivered. He was successful in convincing the Argonauts ownership in hiring Marc Trestman as the team's head coach. Popp and Trestman had won consecutive Grey Cups together in 2009 and 2010, and had appeared in 3 straight championships working together in Montreal. Despite being hired after the free agency period had started two weeks earlier, Popp was able to make key acquisitions with free agents such as former Montreal Alouettes player Bear Woods and key trades with such players as former Montreal Alouettes player S. J. Green and WR Armanti Edwards. Popp was initially criticized for the moves by the Toronto media, as some felt he was turning the Argonauts into another version of the Alouettes, a rival team that had dominated the Eastern Conference for two decades.
The view changed quickly as Popp's first season in Toronto went above expectations, given the circumstances. The team finished the season at 11-9, including playoffs, winning 7 of its last 9 games, which was good enough for first place in the East and a first-round bye in the playoffs. Under his leadership, the Argos defeated the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Eastern Final, and the Calgary Stampeders in the 105th Grey Cup CFL final. The Toronto Argonauts became the first team to go from worst to first in one season to win a championship.
Popp's second season in Toronto had high expectations coming off a 2017 Grey Cup Championship but change was in the air and not much patience was left to find with a new ownership and new president because of lack of performance off the field with ticket sales and sponsorship. The team was in a rebuild with its first off-season together. Unfortunately, 2018 season got derailed quickly with a season-ending injury to starting QB Ricky Ray the first game of the season. The team struggled to find consistency at the quarterback position, scoring points, and finished the regular season at 4-14. Popp had traded for top prospect James Franklin from the Edmonton Eskimos in the off-season, with the hopes of him being the successor to Ray. Franklin struggled to find his footing under Trestman's system and would be replaced by McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who Popp also traded for the season prior but he also struggled at the helm. The team's on-field performance and clashing personalities between head coach and new president and ownership prompted the firing of Trestman at the end of the season. Popp was clearly not happy with the decision but had another year on his contract. The following season, 2019, became another rebuild season with a new coaching staff but the Argos struggled to find consistency and lost several games that should have been won.
Head Coaching Career (2001, 2006-2007, 2013, 2015-2016)
Majority of Popp's head coaching career in the Canadian Football League has been as an interim head coach at the request of former Montreal Alouettes owner Robert Wetenhall. Popp coached full-time for one season in 2007. Popp accepted the challenge several times under difficult circumstances but was able to lead the Alouettes to the playoffs on 4 different occasions and even led the team to the 2006 Grey Cup. Popp was never allowed to hire his own coaching staff but stepped in as a leader and turned a negative into a positive. Popp was able to hire a couple of assistants during his tenor as a head coach and is credited in giving Scott Milanovich (Head Coach Edmonton Eskimos) and Ryan Dinwiddie (Head Coach Toronto Argonauts)their first break in coaching in the CFL. During the 2001 season, Popp took over the team after owner Robert Wetenhall fired Rod Rust in the midst of a long losing streak. On October 4, 2006, following the resignation of Don Matthews due to health reasons, Popp again took over as head coach and led the Alouettes to an appearance in the 2006 Grey Cup. Popp continued leading the Alouettes during the 2007 season as well, a rebuilding year which saw the team play with 23 rookies and without their starting quarterback for half the season. Following the 2007 season, Popp decided to step away from the coaching ranks when he hired former NFL coach Marc Trestman as the new head coach of the Alouettes. On August 1, 2013, Popp returned to the sideline after Owner Robert Wetenhall decided to fire new head coach Dan Hawkins and was interim head coach for the remainder of the 2013 season. For 2014, Owners Robert Wetenhall and his son Andrew Wetenhall decided to hire Tom Higgins as the Alouettes' head coach and Popp returned to general manager duties full-time. On August 21, 2015, Alouettes ownership relieved Tom Higgins of his coaching duties and brought general manager Popp to the bench for the fourth time. Jim Popp continued as the head coach for part of the 2016 CFL season before stepping back as strictly the General Manager.
Professional Spring Football League (1991-1992)
Before joining the CFL, Popp helped form a new pro football league called the Professional Spring Football League in 1991-1992, with which Popp served as the league’s director of player personnel and worked with former NFL Coach Walt Michaels.
NFL Europe (WLAF) (1991)
In 1991, he served as the wide receivers, special teams coordinator, and strength and conditioning coach for the Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks of the World League of American Football (later NFL Europe), under NFL great, Roman Gabriel.
College football (1986-1990)
Michigan State (1986)
Popp first taste in coaching came at Michigan State (1986) under Coach George Perles. Popp was still a student but had suffered a terrible knee injury and took advantage of the opportunity to learn from some of the best. He took on the role as a graduate assistant coach. He worked under the tutelage of Coach Nick Saban (HC Alabama) and Coach Charlie Baggett.
North Carolina (1987)
Popp accepted a Graduate Assistant job at the University of North Carolina (1987) under Coach Dick Crum. Popp assisted both the quarterbacks and running backs under the tutelage of the late Coach Randy Walker (later HC of Northwestern) and Coach Lawson Holland.
The Citadel (1988-1990)
During Popp's three seasons at The Citadel, he coached multiple position, Quarterback, Running Back, and Wide Receivers under Coach Charlie Taaffe.
College Athlete (1983-1986)
Popp earned a full athletic scholarship to Michigan State as an athlete, both football and was scheduled to play baseball. He played both defensive back and wide receiver during his football career. His position coaches at Michigan State were Coach Nick Saban (HC at Alabama) and Coach Charlie Baggett. He suffered a terrible knee injury early in his football career, forcing him to change positions and ending his baseball career. He played college football for three seasons at Michigan State (1983–85). Popp was part of Perles’ first recruiting class and was the first recruit to earn a degree and graduate in three and half years.
Popp is married to Kimberly Hamilton Popp and the couple have six children together. The Popp family reside in Mooresville, North Carolina. Popp credits much of his success on the field to his family, especially his father Joe, a former NFL and college coach. Jim and his father share the privilege of being members of the Mooresville (NC) High School Sports Hall of Fame, whose football stadium is named in Joe's honor (Coach Joe Popp Stadium).
|Team||Year||Regular Season||Post Season|
|BAL||1994||12||6||0||2nd in East Division||2||1||Lost in 82nd Grey Cup|
|BAL||1995||15||3||0||1st in South Division||3||0||Won 83rd Grey Cup|
|MTL||1996||12||6||0||3rd in East Division||1||1||Lost in East Final|
|MTL||1997||13||5||0||3rd in East Division||1||1||Lost in East Final|
|MTL||1998||12||5||1||2nd in East Division||1||1||Lost in East Final|
|MTL||1999||12||6||0||1st in East Division||1||1||Lost in East Final|
|MTL||2000||12||6||0||1st in East Division||2||1||Lost in 88th Grey Cup|
|MTL||2001||9||9||0||3rd in East Division||0||1||Lost in East Semi-Final|
|MTL||2002||13||5||0||1st in East Division||2||0||Won 90th Grey Cup|
|MTL||2003||13||5||0||1st in East Division||2||1||Lost in 91st Grey Cup|
|MTL||2004||14||4||0||1st in East Division||1||1||Lost in East Final|
|MTL||2005||10||8||0||2nd in East Division||2||1||Lost in 93rd Grey Cup|
|MTL||2006||10||8||0||1st in East Division||1||1||Lost in 94th Grey Cup|
|MTL||2007||8||10||0||3rd in East Division||0||1||Lost in East Semi-Final|
|MTL||2008||11||7||0||1st in East Division||1||1||Lost in 96th Grey Cup|
|MTL||2009||15||3||0||1st in East Division||2||0||Won 97th Grey Cup|
|MTL||2010||12||6||0||1st in East Division||2||0||Won 98th Grey Cup|
|MTL||2011||10||8||0||2nd in East Division||0||1||Lost in East Semi-Final|
|MTL||2012||11||7||0||1st in East Division||0||1||Lost in East Final|
|MTL||2013||8||10||0||3rd in East Division||0||1||Lost in East Semi-Final|
|MTL||2014||9||9||0||2nd in East Division||1||1||Lost in East Final|
|MTL||2015||6||12||0||4th in East Division||-||-||Missed Playoffs|
|MTL||2016||7||11||0||3rd in East Division||-||-||Missed Playoffs|
|TOR||2017||9||9||0||1st in East Division||2||0||Won 105th Grey Cup|
|TOR||2018||4||14||0||4th in East Division||-||-||Missed Playoffs|
|27||17||5 Grey Cup Championships|
|Team||Year||Regular Season||Post Season|
|MTL||2001||0||1||0||.000||3rd in East Division||0||1||Lost in Division Semi-Finals|
|MTL||2006||2||2||0||.500||1st in East Division||1||1||Lost in Grey Cup|
|MTL||2007||8||10||0||.444||3rd in East Division||0||1||Lost in Division Semi-Finals|
|MTL||2013||6||7||0||.461||3rd in East Division||0||1||Lost in Division Semi-Finals|
|MTL||2015||3||7||0||.300||4th in East Division||-||-||Did not qualify|
|Total||22||36||0||.379||1 East Division
|1||4||0 Grey Cups|
- "Colts' Irsay intrigued by CFL's Popp; seven to interview for GM". NFL.com. Retrieved January 7, 2012.
- "Alouettes fire Higgins as Head Coach; GM Popp to take over". TSN. Retrieved August 21, 2015.
- "Als' Popp relinquishes coaching duties; Chapdelaine named interim head coach". CFL.ca. September 19, 2016. Retrieved September 20, 2016.