Sunday, December 16, 2007
By Herb Zurkowsky,
As yet another coordinator prepares for his departure from the Alouettes, the Canadian Football League team's thorough and exhaustive search for a new head coach seems to have reached a merciful end.
And with a stunning result.
The Als are expected to announce the hiring of Marc Trestman as their new coach, perhaps as early as tomorrow, The Gazette has learned. At the same time, don't be surprised if the Hamilton Tiger-Cats announce the addition of Marcel Bellefeuille to their staff. Bellefeuille was the Als' offensive coordinator in 2007, after serving as the team's running-backs and receivers coach the previous season. Bellefeuille, who couldn't be reached for comment, is expected to join the Ticats in a similar capacity.
Trestman's arrival in Montreal, however, can only be viewed as a surprising turn of events. Although Trestman was a guest coach at the Als' spring training camp, he spent only three days at the Fort St. Jean campus as an observer and has virtually no CFL experience. Perhaps that's why he has been calling other CFL teams, seeking out potential assistants.
When Als president Larry Smith announced almost three weeks ago that general manager Jim Popp was relinquishing his coaching duties, he stressed the importance of finding someone with CFL experience - preferably a former head coach.
Among the candidates interviewed were Tom Higgins, a former head coach with Calgary and Edmonton; Toronto offensive coordinator Steve Buratto, who has head coaching experience with Calgary and British Columbia; and Greg Marshall and Richie Hall, defensive coordinators with Winnipeg and Saskatchewan, respectively.
Buratto and Higgins, reached yesterday in Idaho and Alberta, respectively, said they've heard nothing from the Als. Marshall is visiting family in Oregon and couldn't be reached for comment.
On Friday night, Smith told The Gazette the search has been narrowed to three candidates and the announcement would be made before Christmas.
Trestman's an experienced coach - all of it coming in the U.S., however. He was an assistant head coach at Miami in 2004 and was offensive coordinator with Oakland when the Raiders reached the Super Bowl in 2003. He has made seven other NFL stops since 1985 and most recently spent two seasons as the offensive coordinator at North Carolina State University. He's also a former quarterback at the University of Minnesota and a graduate of the University of Miami School of Law.
Bellefeuille becomes the third coordinator to leave, all before the appointment of a new coach, indicating issues exist in the front office. But because
Bellefeuille's a francophone, the Als, already battling image problems after an 8-10 season and an opening-round playoff loss, figure to take a further hit.
Bellefeuille was interviewed for the Montreal job, as was defensive coordinator Chris Jones. Once Jones knew he wasn't getting the post, he signed with Calgary last Thursday as its defensive coordinator. Similarly, Bellefeuille must have realized he was out of the running in Montreal, leading him to sign with Hamilton.
Ticats head coach Charlie Taaffe said yesterday he had met Bellefeuille, but was otherwise non-committal.
"He's got experience. He has had success as a coordinator. He's a quality coach. I got to know him better and we'll see where it goes. But I'm going to interview people for the better part of the week," Taaffe said.
The third Als coordinator, Noel Thorpe, who ran special teams while also coaching the secondary, signed with Edmonton last month.