October 3, 2017

Hogan: Going against the norm pays off for Argos

Toronto Argonauts head coach Marc Trestman during the Labour Day Classic game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton ON, Monday September 4, 2017. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

There is little to no doubt that Marc Trestman has made an impact on his new team. Hired in late February, the first-year Argos head coach has earned the trust of his players.

Just don’t think of him as being conventional.

Within the span of seven minutes, Trestman made two decisions on Saturday night that defied conventional wisdom, and both worked out perfectly for the Double Blue.

After erasing a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter, the Argos won the coin flip at the beginning of overtime. Logic dictates that the team that wins the toss allows the other team to go on offence first, which permits the team that gets the ball second to know if it needs a touchdown, a field goal, or just a single point for the tie or win.

Toronto won the toss but opted to take the football first. Trestman says there was a reason for going against the norm.

“We were feeling good about ourselves and we wanted to take the game to them,” said the coach. “The feel of the game, where their defence was, where we were offensively, we thought the best thing we could do was to put our offence back on the field.”

This is the first season that the coach has worked with quarterback Ricky Ray. The 15-year veteran was standing on the sideline before OT began, waiting to see what was going to happen next. As he was collecting his thoughts he heard referee Tom Vallesi announce that the Argos were going on offence first.

Was the veteran surprised that his group was up?

“I wouldn’t say surprised,” admitted Ray, who once led Edmonton to an overtime win the 2005 Grey Cup, where he was the game’s MVP, “Some coaches like going second offensively to see what you’re playing for. Our coaches felt like we had good momentum going in the fourth quarter and we wanted to keep that momentum and try and put the pressure on them.”


“Obviously it was the right call,” the Sacramento State product continued, “Because we went down and scored right away and got the two-point conversion and there was a lot of pressure on them.”

That wasn’t the only time Trestman ignored what it said in ‘the book.’

After the Argos scored, the Ticats went on offence, knowing they needed a touchdown and a two-point conversion to force a second OT.

On their second play, they threw an incomplete pass and Brandon Banks went offside. The Argos had a choice, take the penalty and make it second-and-10 or decline it, forcing Hamilton into a one-play situation where they needed to make five yards.

Trestman opted to give the home team two cracks at making ten yards, once again going against the grain and admitting it was another gut call because of how well the defence was playing.

“Second-and-long would be better than third-and-five,” explained Trestman. “We felt in long yardage we could stop them and keep them in long yardage. I credit Corey (defensive coordinator Chamblin) with that, because that’s not really conventional wisdom, but talking about it we felt like that’s where we wanted our defence to be and it worked out for us.”

Linebacker Bear Woods didn’t realize until after the game that the Argos had won the coin toss for overtime. After reflecting on the decision he loved it.

“I think it shows you the exact leadership we’re getting from Coach Trestman,” Woods told Argonauts.ca in his thick southern drawl. “That is, we’re not concerned with anybody else and what they may do or may not do. Let’s get the ball and let’s do what we’re going to do, and that kind of mentality has gone throughout the whole team.”

Woods stressed his coach lives by the ‘speak softly and carry a big stick’ philosophy of former U.S. president Teddy Roosevelt.

“Don’t mistake his soft tone and articulate communication into softness or conservative play calling,” said the linebacker of Trestman, “We’re going out there to gut people.”

Woods said he didn’t think twice about it when the head coach opted to accept the penalty against Hamilton, saying the entire defence has bought into the “next play” mentality.

Trestman played the role of the riverboat gambler on Saturday, but don’t expect that every game.

“I think that we go by the book most of the time,” conceded Trestman, “We’re not outliers. It’s really about the feel of the game and where we are at the time. It just seemed like the right thing to do.”

In retrospect, it was in both cases.