Anthony Calvillo was prepared to take the year off from coaching until Marc Trestman came calling.
The Toronto Argonauts unveiled pro football’s all-time passing leader as their quarterback coach Monday, reuniting Calvillo with head coach Trestman. Calvillo led the Alouettes to two Grey Cups in five seasons playing for Trestman in Montreal (2008-2012).
“We had a lot of plans, a lot of charity events, golf tournaments, travelling with the family,” Calvillo said. “Once I got the call (from Trestman) it sparked my interest because I wanted to get into this profession and learn as much as I can.
“This was an opportunity to learn from somebody who I have respect for. I thought I couldn’t waste this opportunity.”
But first, Calvillo had to make a difficult call of his own.
“The hardest thing was calling (Montreal) owner (Bob Wetenhall) and informing him of my decision,” Calvillo said. “That was the one thing I was kind of hesitant and nervous about because we have so much respect for each other and a great friendship.”
Added Trestman: “Timing is everything. The stars were aligned for me in 2008 when I went to Montreal and Anthony Calvillo was there. I just feel really lucky to have him be part of our staff and give him a chance to grow and help us.”
Calvillo, 45, a married father of two young girls, takes his first football job outside of Montreal in 20 years. After earlier stints with the Las Vegas Posse and Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Calvillo spent 16 seasons with the Alouettes, winning three Grey Cups and the CFL’s top player honour three times.
In January 2014, Calvillo retired as pro football’s all-time passing leader (79,816 yards) and tops in the CFL in TDs (455), and completions (5,892).
Calvillo began his coaching career in 2015 with Montreal. But he worked three different jobs (receivers coach, offensive co-ordinator and quarterback coach) over three seasons under four Alouettes head coaches – Tom Higgins, Jim Popp, Jacques Chapdelaine and Kavis Reed.
During that span, Montreal was 16-38 and never made the playoffs.
“As many years as you play, or at least that I played for, it doesn’t prepare you for the coaching aspect of things,” Calvillo said. “As much as there was a lot of changes, let’s not forget I was part of those staffs that required changes . . . I was part of that process of trying to get things right and we weren’t able to do that and it’s a difficult pill to swallow.
“But the biggest thing I’ve learned is to continue to have confidence in what you believe in as a coach.”
Calvillo joins a Toronto squad that won the Grey Cup last season, its first under Trestman. After playing just 12 games over two injury-plagued campaigns, Toronto quarterback Ricky Ray made 17 starts in 2017 and registered his first 5,000-yard passing season since ’08 in leading the Argos (9-9) atop the East Division after a last-place finish the year before.
Ray captured the East Division’s outstanding player nod last year while Trestman received the league’s coach-of-the-year honour for a second time. After taking time this off-season to ponder his future, Ray, 38, decided in February to return for a 16th CFL campaign.
Just in case, though, Toronto acquired James Franklin from Edmonton in December and signed the athletic 26-year-old to a two-year extension. Ray enters the ’17 season as the league’s No. 4 passer (60,429 yards) behind Calvillo, Damon Allen (72,381) and Henry Burris (63,227).
The prospect of Calvillo, a ’17 Canadian Football Hall of Fame inductee, coaching Ray, a future Hall of Famer, and Toronto’s other quarterbacks excites Trestman.
“I was in Montreal a couple of weeks ago and sat down with (Calvillo),” Trestman said. “I said, ‘There’s a wide-open opportunity here and how cool would it be for you and Ricky to be in the meeting room together? We could have a lot of fun, it would be a great dynamic.’
“And not only with Ricky but our other quarterbacks.”
Trestman said Ray has many of the traits that made Calvillo a successful player.
“They’re very similarly wired,” he said. “They’re men of few words because they’re always working, they’re always doing the things necessary.
“AC has taken that work ethic into coaching.”
Trestman saw it first-hand in 2014 as the Chicago Bears head coach. That year, he had Calvillo meet with the club’s quarterbacks, including veterans Jay Cutler and Josh McCown, and break down the Trestman offence Calvillo executed so well in Canada.
“I just gave him the remote and he went through drops and reads and progressions and that’s when I knew he’d be a great coach,” Trestman said. “He sat in there with Jay and Josh and the other guys and by the end of the day they were best friends . . . they went out and played golf together.”
The remainder of Trestman’s offensive staff consists of Tommy Condell (offensive co-ordinator, receivers), Josh Moore (running backs), Jonathan Himebauch (offensive line) and Justin Poindexter (offensive quality control). Mike Archer is the defensive co-ordinator with Tyron Brackenridge (defensive backs), Kerry Locklin (defensive line), Greg Quick (linebackers) and Gavin Lake (defensive quality control).
Kevin Eiben returns as special-teams coach with Wendell Avery as his assistant. J. Aggabao remains strength-and-conditioning coach.
Condell replaces Marcus Brady, who joined the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, while Archer takes over from Corey Chamblin, who opted against returning in 2018. Quick begins his second stint with Toronto after coaching in Montreal (2016-17).
– Toronto Argonauts