Chicago Bears hire Montreal Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman
During five seasons as Als' head coach, he put together a regular-season record of 59 wins, 31 losses and two Grey Cup titles
During his five years running the Als from the bench, Trestman put together a regular-season record of 59 wins, 31 losses — and had led the Larks to a pair of Grey Cup victories, in 2009 and 2010.
Photograph by: Geoff Robins, THE CANADIAN PRESS
MONTREAL — It was always the elephant in the room -- the threat of Marc Trestman leaving the Alouettes for a return to the National Football League, preferably as a head coach. It wasn't a question of if. Rather, when?
It became a ritual every winter, following a successful season in Montreal, Trestman's name being linked to openings. He never commented, always insisting he had never initiated the dialogue. And the Als, on an annual basis, never would discuss the speculation.
At least that game has ended now, once and for all, with Trestman's hiring as head coach on Wednesday of the Chicago Bears. It always was Trestman's ambition, whether he admitted it to the media or not, to return to the NFL, which is understandable. Finally, years from now, he'll be able to admit his career is complete. At age 57, following two decades as an NFL assistant and a five-year run in this little mom-and-pop circuit known as the Canadian Football League, Trestman undoubtedly has paid his dues and is worthy of this well-deserved promotion.
We do find it interesting, however, that a year ago he severed ties with his Florida-based agent, Darren Weiner, signing with the high-powered IMG company, enhancing his ability to potentially find NFL employment. And, although Trestman has been on Twitter (@MarcTrestman1) for a year now, not once did he Tweet while coaching the Als. Suddenly, on Wednesday, there was limited activity. Perhaps it goes with the NFL territory.
Trestman probably will do well with the Bears. He has a proven track record and generally has succeeded throughout his numerous stops. He inherits a team that went 10-6, has a veteran starting quarterback in Jay Cutler and should challenge for a playoff berth in a tough division.
And make no mistake -- the Als should remain competitive without Trestman. Wednesday wasn't as much about Trestman leaving, as it was about Jim Popp staying. Another day passed without the Als' general manager receiving a second interview from the New York Jets, making his departure less and less likely with each passing hour.
"Nothing's new," Popp said. "They're interviewing for a second time. I don't know anything different. That doesn't mean I'm totally out, but it doesn't mean that I'm highly likely."
As long as the Als have their player personnel guru, and the architect of this team, they'll be fine. And as long as quarterback Anthony Calvillo remains mobile and proficient, even at age 40, this team will continue displaying signs of life and should challenge.
"Personally, it's hard for us no doubt losing such a great head coach," veteran guard Scott Flory said. "But we still have our quarterback."
Indeed. From Bob Price to Dave Ritchie to Charlie Taaffe to Rod Rust to Don Matthews to Trestman, Popp and owner Robert Wetenhall have ensured a coach was in place to continue the winning tradition. But Trestman's departure has created a void. It's rare for a coach to last five seasons. When they do and leave, they don't simply vanish into thin air. Comparisons will be made.
Trestman adapted to the Canadian game despite having no CFL experience. He created an environment in which the players would succeed. He arrived and immediately leaned on his veterans, asking them questions. The dialogue was meaningful. Trestman listened, often heeding the players' advice. At the same time, in his own inimitable fashion, Trestman repeatedly reinvented himself, discovering ways to motivate the players. And they repeatedly ventured to the trough, deciding to drink the Kool-Aid, knowing the end result would invariably end well.
"It's always tough when you lose the captain of your ship," Calvillo said. "That's what he was. He was our director. We followed him. We believed in him. It took a few years for everybody to buy into his message. But he was able to spread that message, have people believe and buy into what he believed was going to help this team win.
"We're losing a proven head coach that has won a couple of championships. All we've built here came from Marc ... his leadership, his information, the picture that he painted, week in and out. Now we're in a transition. It's a matter of buying into what this guy brings. That will be the new head coach's challenge."
Predictably Popp, who coached the team to an 8-10 record in 2007, won't start any debates or speculation. No discussion will take place regarding potential candidates. But he said the process will be thorough and complete. Before Trestman was hired, Popp said he formulated a list of 30 possible successors.
There are obvious choices that come to mind. To name just a few: Toronto defensive coordinator Chris Jones; Danny Maciocia, the former GM and head coach at Edmonton; Doug Berry, who coached at Winnipeg; B.C. offensive coordinator Jacques Chapdelaine; Taaffe, the OC at Central Florida; former Saskatchewan coach Danny Barrett, also at the Orlando university, not to mention Paul LaPolice and Greg Marshall, who are getting paid not to coach the Blue Bombers and Roughriders, respectively.
A dark horse might be Université Laval coach Glen Constantin. But he's not stupid, realizing he has a job for life in the provincial capital. And he's never been forced to match wits with professional coaches.
It's also possible Popp will hire an unknown. How many had ever heard of Trestman before his arrival? And more coaches will now consider the CFL a viable option to reaching the NFL, following Trestman's success.
The Als' new coach must realize two things: He inherits a team with an aging QB coming off labrum surgery, along with a GM who will be the subject of NFL speculation again next winter. And if Popp departs, where does that leave the new guy?
"I'll continue to monitor our team," Popp said. "Where we're at in the locker-room and what's the next type of guy we need. There's a lot to it. And I'll meet Bob. He can tell me what he would like to have. It's his football team. Let's remember that."
© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette