All involved stoutly denied it was a distraction, which is, naturally, distracting in itself.
It can now be said with finality that Montreal Alouettes’ coach Marc Trestman’s contract status is no longer an issue and won’t be until 2016 or thereabouts.
With most of his family and several senior players in attendance, the 56-year-old Trestman, who should become the franchise’s all-time winningest coach later this season in just his fifth year in charge, announced he has put pen to paper on a four-year extension that kicks in next season.
“It was an easy decision, I love Montreal, I love being here . . . now we can just put it behind us, and move forward without distracting our football team,” said Trestman, who has been the subject of as many rumours as there are coaching vacancies in the NFL and big-time NCAA football factories.
Though he now has a lengthy extension in hand, his immediate boss doesn’t think the speculation will die down when it comes to Trestman’s job prospects in his native U.S.
“If you think rumours are going to stop . . . don’t kid yourself, that kind of stuff’s not going away just because there’s a contract,” said general-manager Jim Popp, whose friendship with Trestman stretches back two decades, when Popp’s father Joe and Trestman both coached in the Cleveland Browns organization. “When you win, people look for those folks to come to their team.”
It’s little wonder that Trestman, known above all as a passing game and quarterback guru, is constantly linked with greener pastures.
Trestman led the Als to three straight Grey Cup appearances, winning two, his 53-26 record is five wins shy of Don Matthews’ 58, which trails only Douglas Walker, who coached the team in the 1950s and chalked up 59.
While an NFL or Division I head coach’s paycheque is a wonderful thing, so is a gig that allows Trestman to spend the bulk of the year with his family in North Carolina - he regularly travels home on off-days and is in Montreal between June and November.
It’s a somewhat unconventional arrangement, but one that suits both the team and the coach, who is candid about the allure of that aspect.
“His staff comes to him in the off-season, that could happen in any league if an owner allowed it,” said Popp.
Quarterback Anthony Calvillo, a surefire Hall-of-Famer who has shattered several CFL and pro football milestones since Trestman arrived, was unabashed in admitting the coach has extended his career.
“He’s extend a lot of people’s careers, to be honest with you. The difference between winning and losing is coaches. We’ve had great talent here, we’ve won at times here, but he’s the one who put us over that hump, getting two more championships under his leadership,” the 40-year-old Calvillo said. “There’s a lot of great players in this league, and when it’s all even it comes down to coaching.”
Trestman, conversely, said his success is due in large part to his relationship with Popp, owner Robert Wetenhall, and was especially effusive about the ageless Calvillo.
“Bud Grant taught me . . . if you want to be a successful coach you need a patient wife, a loyal dog, and a great quarterback. Not necessarily in that order,” he said.
Wetenhall, who also made the trip for the announcement, recalled the impression that Trestman made in early 2008 as the team scoured the coaching ranks for a successor to Popp, who replaced the deposed Matthews.
“He’s an extraordinary human being, a great friend and a great coach, and I want him to stay here,” Wetenhall said.
Before last season there were strong rumours linking Trestman to his alma mater, the University of Miami, and that Wetenhall had indicated he intended for his coach to honour his CFL contract in its entirety.
Asked by a reporter whether it would advisable to speculate on whether Trestman has an escape clause, Wetenhall said “I would never discuss someone’s personal service agreement . . . I wouldn’t go near there.”