January 12, 2011
Unsurprisingly, the offseason of Marc Trestman speculation continues. Rumours of head coaching jobs with the NCAA's Minnesota Golden Gophers and Miami Hurricanes didn't pan out, and Trestman (pictured above getting a Gatorade bath during the East Final this season) may not be strongly considered as an NFL head coach this year, but that doesn't mean he'll necessarily be on the Alouettes' sidelines when training camp opens this June. ESPN's John Clayton is reporting that Trestman's receiving strong consideration for NFL offensive coordinator jobs with both the San Francisco 49ers and the Carolina Panthers. The 49ers have already apparently talked with him, and the Panthers' connection seems perhaps even more likely according to another ESPN report by Pat Yasinkas.
The Panthers' position would make a lot of sense for Trestman. They were by far the worst team in the NFL this year with a 2-14 record, and much of that was thanks to a putrid offence that scored a league-low 196 points. The key problem came in the passing game, where they averaged only 143.6 yards per game, again the lowest number in the league. The next-closest team, the also-awful Arizona Cardinals, threw for 182.6 yards per game. Carolina needs a drastic offensive makeover, and they need someone to either develop one of the three quarterbacks they have (Matt Moore, Jimmy Clausen and Tony Pike) or one they bring in through the draft (a QB addition through free agency doesn't seem too likely, but it could happen). Their new head coach, Ron Rivera, is a former defensive coordinator, so he's going to need a strong presence as OC. In addition to his offences tearing up the CFL, Trestman's had great success as an NFL OC before and played a key role in developing quarterbacks like Rich Gannon and Bernie Kosar. Moreover, he lives in North Carolina during the CFL offseason, making a local coaching job perhaps even more attractive.
The 49ers' job could work, but it seems a little more farfetched. Despite a generally better team than the Panthers, they have many of the same quarterbacking issues; however, new head coach Jim Harbaugh comes from the college ranks, having just led Stanford to a 40-12 Orange Bowl victory. It seems more likely he'd want to bring in someone from that level, perhaps including former Stanford colleagues Greg Roman or David Shaw. Still, Trestman served as the 49ers' OC and quarterbacks coach in 1995-96, so he has ties to the organization, and Clayton's report that the 49ers have contacted him suggests there's at least some interest from them.
Trestman has also been linked to the Oakland Raiders, and he might wind up there either as a head coach or an offensive coordinator. Current offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is generally believed to have the best crack at the job, but the Raiders can never be accused of being conventional. Moreover, Trestman's greatest NFL success came with the 2002 Raiders, who led the league in passing yards and went to the Super Bowl. You can believe that Al Davis hasn't forgotten that, as that was the last season where the Raiders were even .500 until this season.
Would Trestman be interested in any of the above jobs if the teams wanted him? The head coaching gig with Oakland is probably the most attractive despite the Raiders' questionable organization, and NFL coaching jobs aren't available to frequently. For the others, an OC role isn't a head coaching job, and Trestman hasn't taken any of the head jobs he's been linked to thus far (the Raiders and the Bills in the NFL ranks last offseason, Minnesota and Miami in the NCAA ranks this year). There's no indication whether that's thanks to him turning the teams down or them opting to go in a different direction. If it's him deciding not to jump, it's hard to see him changing his mind for a less prominent job that might not even give him much of a pay raise (NFL offensive coordinator salaries are rumoured to be in the range of $300,000 to $1 million, while Trestman's current job as the Alouettes' head coach is generally thought to pay him in the range of $300,000 to $400,000).
If it's the teams opting to go in another direction, though, that would make it very easy to see Trestman leave for an NFL OC job. Trestman's had phenomenal success in the CFL, but that only carries a certain amount of weight south of the border, and the surest path to an NFL head job is tearing up the league as a coordinator. It's far from a certainty that he'll be offered any of these jobs, and it's not a sure thing that he'd take any of them if they were offered, but they certainly can't be casually ruled out either. Lockout fears are looming for the coming season, but even that might not be enough to stave off the lure of the NFL.
It looks like it's going to be an uneasy offseason for Alouettes' fans; they've made some nice personnel moves so far, including today's trade to get Mike Labinjo from Calgary and the extension for John Bowman, but they still have plenty of uncertainty around free agents including quarterback Anthony Calvillo. They could also lose star receiver Ben Cahoon. The rumours around Trestman might be some of the most worrying, though. In three years, he's led the Alouettes to three Grey Cup games and come away with two rings. That kind of coaching production is awfully difficult to replace.