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5 questions with Vipers head coach Marc Trestman

Vipers head coach Marc Trestman

Last March, Marc Trestman was hired as head coach of the Tampa Bay Vipers, marking the third professional league in which he has coached.

Over his 35-year career, Trestman has served in a variety of positions at both college and pro levels, including head coach of the Montreal Alouettes (2008-2012), Chicago Bears (2013-2014) and Toronto Argonauts (2017-2018).

Perhaps best known for his work in the Canadian Football League, Trestman won the CFL’s Grey Cup three times, twice leading the Alouettes (2009, 2010) and once the Argonauts (2017). He is the only head coach in Alouettes history to win back-to-back Grey Cups and was also named CFL Coach of the Year in 2009 and 2017.

Trestman’s coaching career began as a volunteer assistant coach at the University of Miami in 1981. Two years later, he was promoted to quarterbacks coach as Miami won its first national championship. His college coaching resume also includes two seasons as offensive coordinator at NC State.

In 1985, Trestman joined the NFL’s coaching ranks as the Minnesota Vikings running backs coach. In 1987 he became the quarterbacks coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and later held that position with the Vikings (1990, 1991) and Detroit Lions (1997). He served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Cleveland Browns (1988, 1989), San Francisco 49ers (1995, 1996), Arizona Cardinals (1998-2000) and Oakland Raiders (2001-2003).

Trestman’s NFL coaching career also includes a season as assistant head coach for the Miami Dolphins (2004) and two seasons as offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens (2015, 2016).

In Trestman’s first year as head coach of the Bears, the team reached impressive heights. Chicago finished second in the league in scoring, fifth in offensive yardage, and broke team records in total yards, passing yards, passing touchdowns, and first downs.

A Minnesota native, Trestman played quarterback at the University of Minnesota, where he earned a B.A. in political science. He also has a Juris Doctorate from the University of Miami Law School and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1983. sat down with Trestman for 5 questions.

Talk about the win the day mentality that you've instilled in your team.

Trestman: What we're trying to do is focus on each and every moment of the day and making sure we did do everything we can to win that day and then move on to the next day. Keeping the guys focused, as I said, on whatever they're doing, the meeting, the walkthrough, the practice, their health, everything that they do. And I know that this moment's an important moment, this day is an important day, so to speak.

Staying on the subject of mentality, you're all about family and culture when it comes to your team. Can you talk to me a little bit about how important that atmosphere is for players both on and off the field?

Trestman: I think that to bring out the best in your team, we have to get to know each other; get close. As we move along and we build this, it's not just how you’re doing; it's what are your hopes and dreams? What are your goals? What's your story? When you find out a player's story, you're better able to coach him. Authentic relationships go to the framework of any culture. It starts there. Culture is the foundation for winning. It doesn't come after winning; it comes before winning. That's a critical part. You can't have culture unless you have relationships that matter. It's the relationships that create urgency. It's nothing more than guys wanting to do it for their teammates. And that's just the history of this kind of team sport that football is.

Obviously, your career is extensive. You've worked in the CFL, the NFL, and now the XFL. Can you talk to me a little bit about the similarities and differences in coaching in those different atmospheres?

Trestman: I think that, ultimately, the players are the same. The game in all three play places are similar but different. CFL has rules specific to itself that are different than the rules we or the NFL play. And I think that takes some getting used to and some understanding because it's a brilliant game, brilliantly put together game, the CFL. And it's got a great history. The players, though, are really the same everywhere. They love the game. They all play for the love of football. They really do. I know that money dictates a lot of it at the professional level. All you have to do is go to the great players and what they remember is not the money they made or the championships, it's the locker room. It always has been.

And what's never going to change is the friendships. Brotherhood, and now sisterhood, because we try to make everybody in our organization part of what we're doing and part of the family. That’s at the core everywhere you go. Players want to be part of something greater than themselves. They want to be part of community, which I think is inherent in everybody. And that they get to do it at a highly-intense and chaotic level on a weekly basis, that takes a certain type of wiring, a certain type of intelligence that goes beyond things that are unrelated to the game.

And how has it been having a dual head coach general manager role?

Trestman: I've got such good support with our personnel department. Coaches are clearly involved in personnel evaluation. We do everything together. We drafted together. So, I don't really feel that it's limited me much. I just use the support of people around to try to get everything done that needs to get done, and I certainly couldn't do it all without them.

What has the buildup to Week 1 been like?

Trestman: Well, it really started when Oliver [Luck, XFL Commissioner] walked in and offered me an opportunity to be in a league. It's just been so exciting, starting with nothing. I'm sure everybody in our league feels that just starting with a handshake that you're going to be one of their eight head coaches of this new league to building a staff, scouting players, getting facilities, everything that goes in, building with Josh [Bullock, team president], and everybody that goes into this thing. So, it's exciting.

We really don't know what it's going to look like and that's the excitement. We've prepared and we want it to look a certain way, but we really won't find out until we get out there on Sunday. And that's where the energy comes and that's where the excitement comes. It's hard to contain yourself. We're focused here on winning the day and doing our jobs today; that preparation leads us to Sunday. But it's undeniable that you look ahead to 2:00 on Sunday and you go, "What is this thing all going to look like and how are we going to respond?" I mean, we won't know, really, who we are really until 5:00 and then we can work from that.

Talk about the challenge of the opening schedule, having two away games to start the season, the second being on the west coast.

Trestman: We choose to look at it as a positive challenge. We know we've got to play two games in six days, to travel 9,000 miles, we have to come back here on Sunday night and get right to work on a short week. We've got a flight the day before, so we're going to be dealing with a three-hour time difference. We’re playing an afternoon game, which benefits us. It's not only on the road; it's on the road against divisional opponent, which makes it even more important in some ways than just a regular road game. It's a short season that we're playing; they all matter. You got to be excited about the opportunity, the challenge, to go on the road twice and win.