The Toronto Argonauts fired head coach Marc Trestman on Saturday morning and while it’s always a little surprising when a guy walks the plank just a year removed from winning a championship, there were plenty of good reasons for the Argos to make this move.
Not everything that went so horribly wrong for the Double Blue this season was Trestman’s fault but enough of it could be laid at his feet that moving on makes some sense. With that in mind, here are seven reasons why Trestman is no longer the head man in Toronto.
1. His record in Toronto.
Yes, the Argonauts won the 2017 Grey Cup but the team was 15-23 in the regular season over the last two years, including a dismal 4-14 this in 2018. Getting spanked by Montreal, then an Ottawa team fielding a large number of backups on back-to-back weeks to end the season was a pretty good indicator that the team had stopped playing for Trestman.
Losing quarterback Ricky Ray to a neck injury week two was the most significant blow but Toronto also dealt with significant losses on defence where stalwarts Marcus Ball, Bear Woods and Cassius Vaughn all missed big chunks of time. Injuries are an issue for every team but losing Ray, who was excellent while winning a Grey Cup in 2017, was something the Argos were unable to overcome.
3. How the quarterbacks were handled.
The Argos traded for James Franklin, seen by many as the next great CFL quarterback, in the off-season and gave him a two-year contract extension as an insurance policy to Ray’s injury history and advancing age. He started four games going 1-3, all against the West Division, before being replaced by McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Trestman kept MBT at the helm for eight games and the team went 2-6, effectively dooming their season. Why Trestman elected to go with Bethel-Thompson for so long and his leash for Franklin was short remains a mystery – but it was also a factor in his downfall.
4. The decision to promote Mike Archer as defensive coordinator.
The departure of defensive coordinator Corey Chamblin after the Grey Cup win was a significant loss. Under Chamblin, the Argos were fourth in points allowed (25.3) and second in net yard yardage (329.1) but fell to last in both those categories in 2018, allowing 31.5 points per game –three full points worse than eighth place Montreal – and 407.7 yards of offence. Archer has extensive NCAA experience and seven years as linebackers coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers but had never been a DC in the CFL. It showed.
5. Trestman’s old school approach.
Trestman is a legendary control freak and notoriously hard on his staff. Justin Dunk relayed a story on a recent 3Down podcast that featured Trestman dressing down a communications staffer who had recently transferred from another MLSE property so emphatically the staffer quit. He’s been known to text players to criticize them for their social media activity and takes little to no input from players on game-planning. While that level of discipline is often lauded when a team is winning, it wears thin quickly and there are real questions as to whether Trestman’s my-way-or-the-highway approach to literally everything has a place in the modern game.
6. The arrival of MLSE.
Speaking of MLSE, their arrival last December as the full-blown owner of the Argos led to a number of changes, including the departure of team president Michael Copeland – the man who hired Popp and Trestman. New president Bill Manning openly questioned the effectiveness of the Argos’ football operations last week and it’s not surprising or uncommon that Manning would want to make changes and work with people he was more comfortable with.
7. Family reasons.
Trestman is a notoriously private person which made his interview with the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons in which he acknowledged dealing with family issues – the loss of his father, his wife’s battle with cancer – all the more unusual. The takeaway from the article was that Trestman’s personal life may have been impacting his (and therefore) the team’s performance.