The Montreal Alouettes will have a new head coach in 2013 but a familiar face remains under centre.
Quarterback Anthony Calvillo isn’t retiring with the departure of Marc Trestman. On Wednesday, the NFL’s Chicago Bears named Trestman the 14th head coach in club history.
In December, the 40-year-old Calvillo decided to continue playing, signing a two-year deal following successful surgery to fix a torn muscle in his left shoulder. The Los Angeles native flourished under Trestman, posting consecutive 5,000-yard passing seasons, winning two Grey Cups and two CFL outstanding player awards while being named a league all-star three times over five seasons.
There were thoughts Calvillo might have a change of heart with Trestman’s departure. But the veteran quarterback emphatically stated he’s all in for a 20th CFL season.
“One thing I’ve learned, I’m always going to trust the powers that be, (owner Robert) Wetenhall and (GM) Jim Popp, to get the right people in here to help us win,” Calvillo told reporters in Montreal. “Now we’re in a situation where they’re going to have to find someone but never once did it cross my mind whether to go into retirement because of this decision.”
Popp did not immediately return a telephone message.
Calvillo heard of Trestman’s appointment early Wednesday and the two spoke when Trestman called Calvillo at his Montreal home and confirmed the news.
“It was so exciting, I was happy for him,” Calvillo said. “He proved himself here and now he gets to go back where he started and prove himself there.
“Over the last five years our relationship has been special, on and off the field . . . we’ve become more than just friends. It’s a special feeling knowing all the success we had and now he’s going to move forward.”
Montreal raised eyebrows in 2008 when it hired Trestman. Despite an impressive coaching resume that included 17 seasons as an NFL assistant, the 57-year-old Trestman was hardly a household name in Canada and arrived with no previous CFL experience.
But Trestman did come with a reputation for being an offensive guru and quarterback technician and with Calvillo in tow amassed a 59-31 regular-season record in Montreal. The Alouettes appeared in three Grey Cup games, winning twice, and Trestman was named the ‘09 CFL coach of the year.
“When Marc came here nobody knew about him,” Calvillo said. “It didn’t take long to understand the detail he brings not only to an offence but the whole organization.
“If you’re openminded and able to absorb the information Marc will give you, you’ll have success.”
Calvillo said no detail was too small for Trestman.
“All the walkthroughs and meetings we had to make sure all 12 of us were on the same page,” he said. “I never experienced that before.
“To me, that was the big difference between winning and losing and that’s what really stands out. How he was able to handle not only our offence, but all the other things to get us ready to win football games.”
Offensive lineman Scott Flory said a strength of Trestman’s was being able to talk to his players and listen to what they said.
“He adapted to the Canadian game, he created the environment in which we could succeed, he asked us questions,” Flory said. “Given his pedigree, he approached us and it was meaningful.
“He took our advice. He’ll do an amazing job down there.”
Trestman becomes the first head coach to go directly from CFL to NFL since 1981-’82 when Frank Kush left the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to join the Indianapolis Colts. Trestman also follows the same path travelled by such coaching legends as Bud Grant and Marv Levy.
Grant, 85, played in Winnipeg and spent 10 seasons coaching there before joining the Minnesota Vikings in 1967. Levy, 87, served as Montreal’s head coach from 1973 to 1977 before going to the Kansas City Chiefs.
There are many similarities between Trestman and Levy, who was 48 when he joined the Chiefs after winning two Grey Cup titles in three appearances with the Als. After Trestman arrived in Montreal he invited Levy to attend training camp and Levy was impressed with him almost immediately.
“Even then observing how he put his staff together, how he worked and how he taught and his approach I was very impressed,” Levy said via telephone from Phoenix, where he’s vacationing. “Not only have I been favourably impressed with Marc as a coach but his personal qualities as well.
“I’m very happy to hear he’s going to the Bears because I believe he’s the right guy.”
Levy, a Chicago native who led the Buffalo Bills to four straight Super Bowl appearances as a coach, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001. He returned to the NFL in 2006 as Bills’ GM before retiring for good after the 2007 campaign.
Levy said Trestman’s appointment in Chicago is yet another indication of the talent — on the field and in front offices — that exists in the CFL and will reflect positively on the league as a whole.
“I always felt as a coach there’s a source of great talent everywhere, whether it was NFL Europe, the CFL or maybe some top college coach now and then like (Seattle’s) Pete Carroll who came out of USC,” Levy said. “I think what it says is, yes, there are players like Joe Theismann, Doug Flutie, Warren Moon and Joe Kapp, players who came down from the CFL (to NFL) and played so well to name a few.
“There is talent everywhere and I found that was the case up there.”
Argos general manager Jim Barker agreed.
“I’m excited for Marc because he has worked a long time to get a chance to be a head coach in the NFL and he got it,” Barker said from Los Angeles, where he is on a scouting trip. “I think it’s good for our league when people who do a good job up here get recognized.
“There’s no doubt it helps that way.”
Calvillo hasn’t thought about who might succeed Trestman and doesn’t plan on asking to be consulted in the search.
“They never have in the past and I don’t want them to,” Calvillo said. “I don’t want to screw up what they’ve been developing here and that’s a trust factor.
“I’ll give my input but now its a matter of putting trust in Mr. Wetenhall and Jim Popp. They’ve brought in people who have helped us win year after year and I’m sure this year it will be no different.”