November 24, 2010
Some things change, some things stay the same. The coaches' press conference this morning (pictured above) featured the same coaches as last year, but they're in slightly different situations. Last year, Ken Miller (left) was heading to his first Grey Cup and Marc Trestman (right) was looking for his first Grey Cup victory. Thanks to the events of last year, Trestman came up with the win. Now he's back for more. For Miller, this is a chance to atone for last year's 13th-man calamity (which is going to be a hugely overplayed story this week) and win his first Grey Cup as a head coach. He said this morning he won't be playing the redemption card, but Saskatchewan's loss to Montreal last year is still certainly in the minds of the Riders' coaches and players.
In fact, Miller's situation now is somewhat similar to Trestman's a year ago. Both had proven themselves excellent head coaches in their limited time in the CFL, but the lack of a Grey Cup victory on their resume caused some to judge them as lesser. I don't buy that, as there are so many random factors that can affect any playoff or Grey Cup game, and many of them aren't directly related to the head coaches. For example, if Saskatchewan had put out the right number of players for that field goal last year, they come away with the victory. Who goes out for a field goal isn't normally a head-coaching decision, so it's not like Miller failed, but that one little change (or a variety of others at any point in last year's game) would mean he had a Grey Cup ring and Trestman didn't. That would cause many people to judge them differently, even if perhaps it shouldn't.
Miller and Trestman have more in common than just appearing in last year's game and living in North Carolina, though. For one thing, they're both surrounded by questions about where they'll be next season. Trestman was last year as well, with speculation that he'd be leaving town to take over the NFL's Buffalo Bills or Oakland Raiders. Neither of those seemed to have a high possibility of happening though, and Trestman wound up signing an extension with Montreal through the 2012 season. However, this year saw Trestman prominently named in rumours about the head coach's job at his alma mater, the University of Minnesota (even while Tim Brewster still had that role), and the speculation surged when Brewster was actually fired. Those rumours appear to have become more likely as time's gone on, with other top candidates falling out of contention. It's still unclear if Trestman would take that job (even with the chance of tripling his salary), but there's a growing chance all the time he'll be offered it. Meanwhile, according to Herb Zurkowsky, there's also a chance the NFL's Minnesota Vikings (who Trestman's worked with before) could consider him for their now-vacant head coaching slot.
For Miller, the uncertainty isn't about leaving the organization, but rather his role within it. There have been rumours that he's going to step down as head coach and focus on his role as vice-president of football operations after this season. It's unclear exactly how that would work, as the Riders already have a general manager (Brendan Taman), but it certainly is a possibility. Miller is 69, and although he clearly still has a passion for football, he might want to get away from the day-to-day grind of coaching.
Until Sunday, though, what they might or might not do next isn't the important thing. It's how they're setting up their teams for the Grey Cup that's important, and the differences and similarities in their personalities are notable. Miller is known for creating a family atmosphere around the Riders. Trestman is more reserved and incredibly precise and driven, but still personable. For the second time in two years, they share the same goal for a week; ignoring the distractions and preparing their team to go out and win a Grey Cup. Only one of them will ultimately be successful this Sunday, though.