They’ve finished first in the East Division four times since 2008 and appeared in three Grey Cup games, winning twice.
Success, it seems, comes at a price for the Montreal Alouettes.
Head coach Marc Trestman is being looked at for two NFL head-coaching vacancies while assistant general manager Marcel Desjardins spoke for the second time with officials of Ottawa’s CFL expansion franchise about its GM position. Jim Popp — the only GM the Montreal franchise has had since relocating from Baltimore in ’96 — is said to be a candidate for the vacant general manager’s job with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.
This isn’t the first off-season the Alouettes have had to deal with the potential loss of key front-office personnel. Last year, the Indianapolis Colts interviewed Popp and Trestman for their general manager and coaching positions, respectively.
Montreal has been a model of consistency in the CFL, with Trestman and Calgary’s John Hufnagel being the league’s longest-tenured head coaches. No other GM has been with one club longer than Popp, whose teams have appeared in 10 Grey Cups (winning four) and at nine years together he and Desjardins form a very solid 1-2 punch.
The departure of Trestman or Popp would create a huge void for Montreal. But the prospect of losing Trestman, Popp and Desjardins all at the same time would be devastating blow to the Alouettes’ football-operations department.
Mark Weightman, the Alouettes’ chief operating officer, wasn’t immediately available for comment Monday.
Trestman was scheduled to meet with both the Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns in the Windy City on Monday. However, a source with knowledge of the situation said Trestman would not be interviewed by the Browns.
Trestman a 56-year-old native of Minneapolis, has spent the last five seasons with Montreal, leading the club to Grey Cup titles in 2009 and 2010. Trestman has compiled a 59-31 regular-season record and was the CFL’s coach of the year in ‘09.
Under Trestman, the Alouettes have advanced to the East Division final four times and are 5-3 in the post-season.
Trestman recently signed a contract extension through 2016 with Montreal but the deal is believed to include an escape clause that would allow him to take a job south of the border.
Trestman’s name has been linked to numerous NFL coaching positions pretty much since his arrival in Montreal, and with good reason. Trestman has previous NCAA coaching experience with both Miami and North Carolina State and has also served as a quarterback coach, running back coach or offensive co-ordinator in the NFL with Minnesota (twice), Tampa Bay, Cleveland, San Francisco, Detroit, Arizona, Oakland and Miami.
Trestman helped tutor Browns starter Bernie Kosar during the 1988-’89 campaigns.
Oregon coach Chip Kelly was regarded as the frontrunner for the Cleveland job before ultimately deciding to remain with the Ducks. The Browns have reportedly also spoken with former Arizona Cardinals defensive co-ordinator Ray Horton, fired Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, Syracuse coach Doug Marrone (now Buffalo’s head coach) and Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien.
During his NFL tenure, Trestman helped tutor such quarterbacks as Steve Young (San Francisco, 1995-96) and Rich Gannon (Oakland, 2001-’03, with Gannon winning ‘01 league MVP). Trestman also served as a consultant in ‘07 for New Orleans head coach Sean Payton.
Trestman also has a history with Bears starter Jay Cutler and backup Jason Campbell. He worked with both prior to their respective draft years — Campbell went to Washington in 2005 out of Auburn, Cutler to Denver in 2006 out of Vanderbilt.
Each year, many of the NFL’s top quarterback prospects look to Trestman to prepare them for their pro day as well as the league’s annual combine. One of Trestman’s most famous pupils was former Florida star Tim Tebow, who had been much criticized for his poor passing mechanics and long, clumsy passing motion.
In 2010, the Denver Broncos selected Tebow in the first round, 25th overall, in the NFL draft. Tebow spent the 2011 season with the New York Jets.
In addition to Cutler and Campbell, Trestman has also worked with Brandon Weeden (Cleveland’s 2012 first-round pick) and Jimmy Clausen (2010 second-round pick, Carolina).
Popp, 48, became Montreal’s general manager when the Baltimore franchise relocated to Quebec and has built the Alouettes into a dominant club while becoming one of the CFL’s top executives. Popp was also named executive of the year in 2011 by Sports Media Canada.
Popp is also a native of Elkin, N.C., and has earned a reputation in Canada of being a shrewd evaluator of football talent. Popp signed a four-year contract extension with Montreal in 2010 but like Trestman reportedly has an out clause in the deal.
Desjardins, a bilingual native of Burlington, Ont., has spent nine seasons learning from Popp as Montreal’s assistant general manger. Desjardins first joined the Alouettes in ‘99 as their assistant director of football operations.
He became the Hamilton Tiger-Cats general manager in 2007 and spent one season in that post before returning to Montreal.
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