October 21, 2010
Last month, I wrote about the rumour that Alouettes' coach Marc Trestman (pictured after Montreal's Grey Cup victory last year, right) would be considered for the University of Minnesota head coaching job if and when it became open. It's since opened up, with the Golden Gophers finally firing Tim Brewster Sunday, and Trestman has received plenty of attention in media reports about the potential candidates. However, it's far too early to write him in as the next Minnesota head coach.
There's no guarantee Trestman would even be seriously considered for the job. Yes, he's a former Golden Gopher quarterback, and yes, he's been successful at almost every stop of his career. He has very limited NCAA experience, though (four years as an assistant at The U in the 1980s and two years as the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at North Carolina State from 2005-2006), and hasn't really had to recruit before. Knowledgeable Big Ten observers and Minnesota fans in particular seem to be highly skeptical of Trestman, partly because they're looking for a proven big name in the wake of the disastrous Brewster era.
The big question is if one of those proven big names can be lured, though. A SB Nation Minnesota piece exploring the coaching search came up with Mark Richt, Leslie Frazier, Mike Leach and Mike Grant as the top candidates, and all have question marks. Richt, the current Georgia coach, has a terrific NCAA record, but there's a chance he might not even be fired despite their calamitous season, and if he is, it's not clear that he'd want to leave the SEC for a Big Ten program that's currently near the bottom of the pack. Minnesota is one of the highest-profile NCAA jobs currently open, but that doesn't mean it will be the highest by the end of the season; there are plenty of potential jobs that could become available.
Frazier does have a local connection as the defensive coordinator for the NFL's Minnesota Vikings, but he's been regularly interviewed for NFL head coaching jobs and would seem likely to land one of those before too long. He also has even less NCAA experience than Trestman, although he spent time as an NAIA head coach. Grant is anything but proven, although he is a big name by at least some standards; he's a successful local high school coach who just happens to be the son of legendary CFL and NFL head coach Bud Grant. He probably wouldn't meet the big-name standard many fans and boosters are looking for, though.
Leach (pictured, right) might be the most interesting option out there at the moment. He was incredibly successful as a head coach at Texas Tech before being unceremoniously run out of his job last year in an incident involving the treatment of a player who just happened to be the son of ESPN analyst Craig James. He also is apparently at least willing to listen to offers from Minnesota. However, Leach is famed for his "Air Raid" pass-heavy offence, and it's unclear how well that would translate to the traditionally run-happy Big Ten. He's also going to draw interest from a lot of schools, so he might not take the Minnesota job even if it is offered.
It's also worth pointing out that Trestman has been linked to NFL jobs with Buffalo and Oakland before, and nothing came of that. If he did intend to leave Montreal in the near future, the NFL might be a more logical move considering his vast experience at that level. The Bills and Raiders' coaching positions obviously aren't dream jobs, but they pay a lot more than the CFL, and Trestman never seemed to even show much interest in those rumours. He signed a contract extension through 2012 last winter, and it's highly unlikely he'd do that if he wanted to move on in the near future. Contracts often can be voided or bought out, especially if you've got the resources of an NFL team or a big NCAA school, so that isn't an ironclad guarantee that he'll still be patrolling the sidelines at Molson Stadium in 2012, but it's certainly suggestive that Trestman might not be all that eager to leave right away.
Despite all that, there are plenty of well-connected people who are big fans of Trestman and willing to talk him up for this job. This St. Paul Pioneer Press article got some big endorsements for him from the likes of Rich Gannon (his former quarterback in Oakland) and Vinny Cerrato (the former Redskins general manager). Here's what Gannon had to say:
"'If you're looking for a guy to adapt and be flexible, I don't know if there's anyone better than Marc Trestman,' said Gannon, who led the Raiders to Super Bowl XXXVII with Trestman as his offensive coordinator in 2002. 'I think he would be an outstanding recruiter. I think it's important at that level. I've never been a college coach. But he's an unbelievable people person. He's a man of great character. I think you find out a lot about people not necessarily through the good times but the bad times. Marc has been through a lot of difficult situations that quite frankly weren't a fault of his own.'"
"Former Washington Redskins executive vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato, who worked with Trestman with the San Francisco 49ers, said Trestman took the CFL job to prove he could be a head coach.
'He proved he was pretty good,' Cerrato said. 'I think he would be awesome offensively (at Minnesota). Everywhere he's been they've had a top-rated offense. I think in the Big Ten he would be great because he would be able to add so much. He's been in Canada with bad weather, and now Minnesota is an outdoor team.'"
It's far too early to tell whether Trestman will even be strongly considered for the Minnesota job, and there's no way of knowing if he'll decide to take it if he is. It would be a substantial pay upgrade, but he might also want to spend another couple of years in Montreal building on the success he's found and then perhaps move to an even better job after that. For the moment, this is just speculation, and there are at least as many factors working against Trestman as there are working for him. Until more comes out, this is just a developing story to follow rather than a serious indication that Trestman's going to leave.