MONTREAL — Coach Marc Trestman plans to return to Montreal next season and so does quarterback Anthony Calvillo, so there is no reason to expect that the Alouettes won’t be contending for a second straight Grey Cup.
Very few changes are anticipated for a club that went a team-record 15-3 in the regular season and then pulled off an unlikely, last-play 28-27 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Grey Cup game last Sunday.
The win snapped a four-game losing streak in Grey Cup games since 2003, but the fact that the Alouettes have been to the CFL championship game seven times since 2000, winning twice, speaks to their ability to produce contending teams year after year.
The 37-year-old Calvillo, named the CFL’s outstanding player for a second straight season, told reporters Tuesday he will be back in 2010.
Centre Bryan Chiu, an Alouette since 1997, and slotback Ben Cahoon, who joined a year later, both said they would decide over the off-season whether to return next year.
But losing any one player would not likely set the team back as much as it would if they lost Trestman, the earnest second-year coach whose innovative offensive schemes and detailed mental and physical planning were a large part of the team’s success.
There have been reports that some NFL clubs — Buffalo and Oakland are sometimes mentioned — are interested in giving him the chance to be an NFL head coach.
He spent nearly three decades as a quarterbacks coach and offensive co-ordinator before heading north to join the Alouettes in 2008.
“I plan on coming back next year,” Trestman said Tuesday as the Alouettes gathered at Olympic Stadium to digest their championship. “When your team has success and you’re the head coach, rumours are going to go out and people are going to blog.
“Right now, there’s nothing in my mind other than enjoying this moment with my players.”
Trestman is under contract for next season, but anything can happen in pro sports and plans can change.
Or, as he put it:
“I can see myself being here. I can’t speak for the future. I have no crystal ball. I love what I’m doing. I have a great owner (Robert Wetenhall), a great president (Larry Smith), a great general manager (Jim Popp) who saw something in me no one else has seen in the 30 years I’ve been in the business, and I appreciate and respect him.”
Today, he plans to be with his players and coaches as the team is given a parade down Ste-Catherine Street to celebrate its sixth Grey Cup.
On Friday, he’ll head home to rejoin his wife and two daughters, who spend the season away from him at their home in Raleigh, N.C.
Popp’s ability to find talent is the main reason the Alouettes are 164-87-1 since rejoining the CFL after a 10-year hiatus in 1996.
He was there from Day 1, and their only season with a losing record was in 2007 when he served as head coach during a rebuilding year and went 8-10.
The next season, Trestman was hired.
“The talent (Popp) brings in is unparalleled in this league,” said Chiu. “When we have injuries, guys are ready to step in and go.
“People want to be here. There are a lot of guys on this team who could go elsewhere for a lot more money but don’t because of the environment we’ve created here, the success we’ve had, and how everyone’s embraced us here. Everyone wants that shot to be a champion. Everyone knows we’ll be contenders every year.”
The Alouettes lost a Grey Cup in 2000 with Charlie Taaffe as coach, won in 2002 but then lost against in 2003, 2005 and 2006 under Don Matthews.
Trestman lost a Grey Cup game at home to Calgary last season, and got his title thanks largely to a too many men on the field call against Saskatchewan on the next-to-last play on Sunday, although the Alouettes outscored the Riders 25-10 in the second half.
It was a relief for Chiu, who wonders how devastating it would have been to fall to 1-6 in Grey Cups in the decade.
The task is to win another, although it may be tougher with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats emerging as a contender in the East Division.
“It can be maintained if guys continue the things that led to our success, which is remaining humble, hard working and keeping egos in check,” said Cahoon, who credits Trestman with instilling those values. ”There was a phenomenal unity in the locker-room.
“Coach Trestman hypnotized or brainwashed us enough that we fell in line and bought what he was selling. He transformed guys in this locker-room — from selfish, undisciplined guys to team guys who were in it for the greater good instead of their own personal glory. It’s got to be the toughest thing in coaching to do. I’ve never seen that done to the extent it was in this locker-room. And that’s the reason we had as much success as we did.”
Trestman pointed out that repeat champions are a rarity in the CFL. It hasn’t been done since Toronto won in 1996 and 1997.
”If anyone thinks past performance is an indication of future success, they should look at history,”’ he said. “It’s very difficult, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done and that it won’t be the collective goal.”