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Marc Trestman of the Montreal Alouettes, left, and Ken Miller of the Saskatchewan Roughriders shake hands around the Grey Cup during coaches news conference Wednesday in Calgary. (SHAUN BEST/Shaun Best/Reuters)
Marc Trestman of the Montreal Alouettes, left, and Ken Miller of the Saskatchewan Roughriders shake hands around the Grey Cup during coaches news conference Wednesday in Calgary. (SHAUN BEST/Shaun Best/Reuters)

No paint-by-number effort Add to ...

Their looks said it all.

Marc Trestman sat with perfect posture at the head table, looking youthful and studious with bookish glasses and "future NFL head coach" written all over him. Next to him was a 68-year-old gentleman who looked as though he should have been wearing comfy slippers and reading bedtime stories to his grandchildren.

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That would be Ken Miller - reassuring and just happy to be here. He's about as likely to jump to the button-down world of the NFL as he is to praise himself for leading the Saskatchewan Roughriders to the 2009 Grey Cup against Trestman's Montreal Alouettes.

Just getting Miller to open up a little is as difficult as trying to pry a watermelon off the head of a Saskatchewan football fan.

"One day, I went into his office and saw this beautiful painting. It was a landscape," Riders president Jim Hopson said after yesterday's Grey Cup coaches' conference. "I asked Ken where he got it and he said he'd painted it. That's all he said. It's a wonderful painting."

Miller and Trestman, 53, will match wits Sunday at McMahon Stadium, with the Alouettes heavily favoured to win their second CFL championship this decade.

Trestman has been already linked to several outside jobs, including the Buffalo Bills head coach position, but was quick to point out the task at hand was to beat the Riders "and their excellent coaching staff."

The only speculation surrounding Miller this week is that, should his team win, he would retire and head home to Oregon.

"After a couple of losses [during the regular season]I'm sure there were people who very high on that possibility," he joked with reporters. "At this point in time, I have no intent on retiring."

Looking back to February of 2008, just as many people wanted to know why in green blazes the Riders would hire a guy who had never been a head coach before at the pro level, let alone in the CFL.

Sure, he had been an assistant with the Toronto Argonauts for four years. And yes, he had been the Riders offensive co-ordinator in 2007, when they won the Grey Cup. But come on. Ken Miller as glamour boy Kent Austin's replacement?

Gary Etcheverry, who brought Miller to Toronto and now serves as the Riders defensive co-ordinator, said don't be fooled by any of the grandpa stuff.

"We coached against each other [in U.S. college football]and he had the single-best game plan against everything we did," Etcheverry said. "I stayed in touch with him when I came to the CFL in 1997, and when I became the Argos head coach, he told me he was at a point in his career where he'd consider a new challenge.

"I have tremendous respect for him. He's a man of character and conviction and you'd be surprised in this business how infrequently you find those things."

Those who know him best insist Miller's true strength is getting his players to want to do well for him as much as for each other. Defensive end John Chick explained how Miller has let the players "be themselves. He's the spokesperson, but he lets it be our team, too."

Miller's steady ways have helped Darian Durant settle in at quarterback and have also enabled the Riders to overcome injuries and setbacks. To a man, the players see Miller as experienced, unruffled and genuinely predictable - although yesterday there was another of those "I-painted-it" moments.

Asked during the coaches' conference why he was late to join the Argonauts in 2002, Miller said it was because he was suffering from prostate cancer and undergoing experimental "proton-beam treatment" for an eight-week span.

"My PSA numbers, I hardly have [them]any more," he said. "I haven't had anything related to that in a number of years."

And that was it. No fuss, next question.

If the Riders play as well as they're coached, they could manage quite the upset this weekend. If not, Montreal will celebrate and Trestman will get his NFL offers.

And Miller? He'll be at home, thinking about the green team and how the landscape looks.

Follow on Twitter: @AllanMaki

 

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