How the deal for Jim Popp and Marc Trestman came together

When Jim Popp and Marc Trestman were announced as the new general manager and head coach of the Toronto Argonauts, it marked the end of a long, deliberate process that began at BBQ joint in North Carolina.

Toronto Argonauts president Michael Copeland reached out to the former Montreal Alouettes general manager soon after relieving former GM Jim Barker of his duties, arranging to spend the day at his home in Charlotte. Copeland’s request: take me to the best southern BBQ restaurant in the area.

“I ate so much there that I didn’t eat again for 24 hours, so Jim fully delivered. Everything: pulled pork, brisket, corn bread,” Copeland explains. “It had all of these NASCAR cars, it was a roadhouse like right out of the movies.”

Between savoury mouthfuls of southern fair, the two men discussed football. Popp was coming off his 20-year run with the Montreal Alouettes and Copeland explained the Argos were trying to rebuild the brand in Toronto and make the franchise relevant again.

“We really found a great connection,” Copeland says.

Over the course of their discussion, and meal, it became clear to the Argo’s president that Popp would be on the short list of candidates for the general manager job. But he told Popp that it was important the management team go through a full hiring process.

“Our ownership had no relationship with Jim Popp,” Copeland explains. “They certainly respected my opinion, but I wanted to put them in a position where they could objectively evaluate all available options.”

So Copeland sought out other candidates, largely with NFL experience at the general manager level. Through that process, which Argos ownership was very much involved, Popp emerged as the successful candidate.

“Jim competed for the job and won the job. I was thrilled with that because of course I went into that with the assumption, belief, and hope that he would, and he did,” Copeland says.

Trestman entered the equation as Copeland talked to people across the football world about Popp: Trestman coached five seasons under Popp when the two were together in Montreal.

“Our first several conversations were strictly about Jim, and Marc’s experience with him,” Copeland says. “It was through those conversations when I would explain what we’re trying to do here in Toronto, and how this is so much more than just winning on the field, that’s a huge part, but it’s really about how we’re going to make the Argos big here.”

That piqued Trestman’s interest, Copeland believes, which led the 61-year-old to speak with Popp about the possibility of coaching in Toronto.

“Really it was those two that then got together and said why don’t we take another run at this together,” Copeland says. “That’s another reason why in terms of timing, things extended a little bit in the last few weeks because the dynamic changed.”

Copeland always had his eye on whether Trestman would be interested in coming back to the CFL and he was looking for an opportunity during conversations to share the Argos vision with the two-time Grey Cup champion bench boss. That said, it was important to Copeland that the general manager hires the head coach.

“I think that there are other teams in the league that are probably looking at us and hoping that they had known that Marc had an interest in coming back. I don’t know that he would’ve come back to any other team other than the Argonauts and what we’re trying to do in the city,” Copeland says. “He loves the city and certainly his working relationship with Jim is a huge part of it. He’s a guy that wants to achieve big things and that’s what really we’re all about.”

Popp and Trestman understand how to build and lead an organization, which will be especially important for 2017 with a shorter than normal time frame to get ready for the season.

“In terms of our ability to be prepared for training camp, we’re going to hit the ground running,” Copeland says. “These guys have already been at it for several weeks in terms of putting their plans together. They’ve got a great idea on coaches, systems, how they’re going to augment our roster. I’m very comfortable that we’re going to be in good shape going into camp.”

Justin Dunk

Justin Dunk

Justin Dunk was a five-year starter at quarterback for the University of Guelph. He covers the league for Sportsnet and 3DownNation.
Justin Dunk
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Justin Dunk
About Justin Dunk (425 Articles)
Justin Dunk was a five-year starter at quarterback for the University of Guelph. He covers the league for Sportsnet and 3DownNation.

16 Comments on How the deal for Jim Popp and Marc Trestman came together

  1. J. Deshellouise // March 3, 2017 at 10:39 am //

    That’s not how it happened according to another writer for 3downnation, Arash Madani. Madani claims the Argos tried for several NFL guys who keep saying no. Popp ended up being the last choice and only because he could bring Marc Trestman in as the coach. Dave Naylor also says the Argos and Copeland didn’t want Popp until about 10 days ago when Naylor said something changed. I don’t understand how Dunk is swallowing the Argos narrative on why Jim Popp was chosen as general manager. It’s false.

  2. Hmmm, Copeland states that GM and coach have been putting plans together for several weeks, but Trestman [on another source] claims that this deal just came together over the last week or so. It would be great for the Argos to return to heady status – (once again) media perception is a key consideration. Makes one wonder about who is driving the conversation marketing-wise (sports journalism editors)?

  3. Brandon Atkinson // March 3, 2017 at 10:54 am //

    Copeland is trying to turn the turd that is his gm search in to a rose.

    Well he got the duo that everyone wanted to be hired by the argos, just later than it should have been.

    It’s time to look past Copeland’s failures and towards the draft and training camp and the start of the season.

    The Argos revival has begun at last.

  4. They could of Poached a staff like Sask did.

  5. mr62 cats // March 3, 2017 at 11:20 am //

    However the hiring was done…..it would appear to be a very smart move on Copeland’s part.
    I wish them luck…but only up until the 2017 season starts.

  6. HaHa! what a bunch of BS

  7. it is probably somewhere between Dunk and Madani’s stories. Madani, the majority of time, writes on the CFL on the negative perspective. However it actually came to be, they should have a strong team for football operations. Popp hasn’t been out very long and still has his football contacts. As long as he sticks to his GM role and lets Trestman do the coaching, the onfield product should turn around. Plus, there are still alot of Cfl free agents out there. For better or worse, they are already set for Qb and most of their o-line. Players don’t look at the new coaches or coordinators until mini-camps anyways. I think this year will be a building year, with 2018, a year for them to push.

  8. Who cares how it developed people. The Argos now have a very talented brain trust and the East division got a lot more interesting in 2017

    • Agreed.

      • Also agree…good for the league. On to more important things…interesting how Argos just signed a former 49er, …….just as Kaepernick quit, sold his house in SF., and said he’ll be standing for the National Anthem next year (O’Canada?????…….things that make you go hmmmm). Kaepernick in Double Blue next year? Popp does know how to make headlines!

  9. green rider // March 3, 2017 at 4:59 pm //

    If I have to choose who to believe between Justin & Arash, I’ll select Justin. He is right much more than he is wrong. And Arash usually writes negatively about the CFL.

  10. Does it matter if Popp was the1st choice or 100th. It is likely the best choice for the Argos at this time. He knows the league, the game, players and personnel, whereas someone coming from the NFL would not. I am not a big Popp fan myself, but BOTH he and Trestman will give this franchise some credibility and stability when it needs it badly. I don’t believe that Ricky Ray will be the answer at QB given his health issues over the past few years, but I suspect that Popp will be diligent in improving the depth at that position over the next couple months including bringing in Rakeem Cato.

    • Marc Lebut // March 6, 2017 at 2:16 pm //

      I doubt Popp brings Cato in Toronto, but the kid sure could perform in Trestman’s system, as long as Trestman doesn’t use him as a pure Pocket passer. At least, we know Cato can be accurate and make all the throws on a football field.

  11. It’s fun to go to Argos games again. While I’ve always enjoyed them, the pre game tail gate and the new stadium make game day very enjoyable. Hopefully the 20+ crowd will realize what they are missing soon enough. Last season was painful watching the Argos but this tandem will no doubt get the team back on track and will enjoy success in Toronto. And the beauty of this league is that you can follow it easily with every game on TV for the convenience of fans.

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