Argonauts axe head coach Marc Trestman after 4-14 season
Toronto winless in 9 road games, last in CFL standings after winning 2017 Grey Cup
The Toronto Argonauts announced the firing of head coach Marc Trestman on Saturday, just hours after completing a 4-14 campaign at Ottawa and less than a year after he guided the club to a stunning comeback victory in the Grey Cup.
The final straw for team ownership and management was the CFL club's 24-9 loss at Ottawa on Friday night as the Argonauts failed to win a road game in nine attempts this season and occupy last place in the league.
"This was a collective decision that we felt we needed to change," said Argonauts president Bill Manning at a news conference.
Friday's game marked Toronto's first visit to TD Place since the 105th Grey Cup last November when it outscored the Calgary Stampeders 11-0 in the fourth quarter for a 27-24 win and record 17th CFL championship on a snowy Sunday night.
Popp, who sat next to Manning at the Saturday afternoon news conference, said it's likely that Trestman's replacement — the 44th head coach in franchise history — could come out of the CFL.
There's probably coaches in the playoffs right now that we would have an interest in talking to.— Argos GM Jim Popp on the team's search for fired Marc Trestman's successor
"I think there's some strong candidates in our league right now that are with other teams," Popp said. "We'll look at all aspects, we'll look at what's best. Our league is so unique, you got to look at the situation."
The timeline to hire a new coach, noted Popp, will likely be spread out over the next little while.
"There's probably coaches in the playoffs right now that we would have an interest in talking to, and that's not to speculate on anybody," he said. "I want those teams to fully concentrate [on winning] a Grey Cup.
"We're still the champions until someone's crowned."
Trestman, 62, arrived in Toronto in February 2017, taking over a team that had won just five games under Scott Milanovich the previous season and returned the Argos to top spot in the East Division with a 9-9 mark. He posted a 15-23 record in his two seasons at the helm after previously leading Montreal to a pair of Grey Cup titles.
No consistency from Ray's replacement, says GM
Toronto's 2018 season got off to a rough start when veteran quarterback Ricky Ray sustained a season-ending neck injury during a Week 2 home loss to Calgary.
"We won a Grey Cup last year, we got hot down the stretch, we played fantastic football. … And this year, a lot of those guys returned, guys were very confident, we had depth going into training camp and we lost a lot of people as we went along the way, starting with our Hall of Fame quarterback," Popp said.
Quarterbacking duties were split between McLeod Bethel-Thomson and James Franklin after Ray's injury, and Popp said the team "didn't get consistency" at the position.
Besides the Argos' on-field struggles, Trestman reportedly did not see eye-to-eye with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, whose acquisition of the team was approved by the league's board of governors this past January.
Only the Alouettes, Trestman's former team, have scored fewer points than the Argos, whose depth chart on Friday featured only four positional starters from the Grey Cup game a year ago: Wide receivers S.J. Green and Armanti Edward along with offensive linemen Tyler Holmes and Sean McEwen.
Toronto has also allowed the most points at 560 over 18 contests, 76 more than Montreal, while recording the fewest quarterback sacks and worst turnover ratio.
It was a trying season off the field as well for Trestman, whose father Jerry died on Labour Day at age 88. It doesn't end there for the native of Minneapolis, Minn., whose mother has cancer while his wife had stem-cell surgery a year ago and is battling multiple myeloma.
"I'm not the only one out there to have lost a parent this year," Trestman told the Toronto Sun in October. "Everybody has to get on this island and pretend that nothing else exists [except football].
"I'm very proud of this team and this coaching staff."
Trestman left Montreal in January 2013 to replace fired Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith after arriving in the CFL in 2008. He was let go less than two years later after going 13-19 in two seasons.
Wealth of experience
It was Trestman's first NFL head-coaching job, a longtime assistant in the league who spent five years coaching the Alouettes and leading them to a 59-31 regular-season record and three Grey Cup appearances.
He has also spent time in the NCAA coaching at Miami and North Carolina State and served in the NFL as a quarterback coach, running back coach and offensive co-ordinator with Minnesota (twice), Tampa Bay, Cleveland, San Francisco, Detroit, Arizona, Oakland and Miami.
Popp and Trestman had hoped to replicate the success they enjoyed with the Alouettes in identical roles in Toronto.
Montreal finished first in the East four times during Trestman's tenure and went 5-3 in the playoffs while Popp had established himself as one of the CFL's most successful GMs, having also won a Grey Cup with the Baltimore Stallions in 1995.
With files from The Canadian Press and Associated Press