The Toronto Argonauts are reuniting Jim Popp and Marc Trestman, hoping the duo can replicate the success they enjoyed with the Montreal Alouettes.
The Argos have hired Popp as their new general manager while Trestman has been named the club’s new head coach.
Popp spent 21 seasons as the Montreal Alouettes GM, leading the franchise to eight Grey Cup appearances and three titles.
Two of those championships came with Trestman as the club’s head coach in 2009 and ‘10.
During Trestman’s tenure, Montreal finished atop the East Division four times, posting a 59-31 regular-season record and a 5-3 playoff mark.
Trestman was hired to coach the NFL’s Chicago Bears in 2013, a post he held for two seasons before being fired after compiling a 13-19 overall record.
Popp has established himself as one of the CFL’s top GMs, also earning a Grey Cup ring in 1995 as the Baltimore Stallions general manager. In 2011, he was named executive of the year by Sports Media Canada.
But the 52-year-old native of Elkin, N.C., proved ineffective as a head coach, posting a 22-36 regular-season record and 1-4 playoff mark in four separate stints on Montreal’s sidelines.
He was removed as Als coach last September and let go from his GM’s role in November.
Toronto finished last in the East Division last season with a dismal 5-13 record. However, the club waited until Jan. 24 to fire GM Jim Barker, who still had two years remaining on his CFL contract.
Argos president and CEO Michael Copeland said that while Popp was immediately identified as a top candidate, he also seriously considered others with NFL experience because he wanted to be “aware of all available options.”
Ultimately, Copeland said, his initial assumption that Popp was the right man for the job was confirmed.
“We understood that it was unorthodox in terms of timing,” said Copeland. “But we were prepared to accept that to get this right. And we got this right.”
Toronto’s off-season plight worsened three days after Barker’s dismissal when head coach Scott Milanovich resigned to become the quarterbacks coach with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.
Popp said Trestman was his only choice for head coach and that he and Trestman are inheriting a team with a “good core.”
Tretsman confirmed that veteran quarterback Ricky Ray, who has been plagued with injuries in recent years, will be the starting quarterback over Drew Willy.
“I have seen Ricky Ray play and he’s a Hall of Fame quarterback who’s won championships,” said Trestman. “I did have a conversation with him last week. ... I’ll just give you the bottom line of our conversation — he wants to come here in the best physical condition of his career. He’s excited to play and he will come in here as the starting quarterback. There will be no competition. He and I will decide whether he’s capable of doing that as we move along.”
Trestman, who said he’s never seen Willy play, said that Willy understands Ray will the No. 1 heading into camp.
“I’ve heard a lot of great things about him,” Trestman said of Willy.
Trestman, who promised a “blue-collar, workmanlike approach” to rebuilding the team, said his first task will be determining his coaching staff. He said no decisions had been made about whether any members of the current staff would be retained.
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