TAMPA — The XFL really, really means it when it says that this time is going to be different.
No more wrestling theatrics. No more hot tubs in the end zone. No more cameras in the cheerleaders’ locker room.
To prove that it really, really means it, the reincarnated spring professional football league announced Tuesday that it has hired mild-mannered Marc Trestman to be the head coach, general manager and face of its Tampa Bay franchise.
Yep, that Marc Trestman, the coach who in 2013 inherited not only Lovie Smith’s Chicago Bears roster but also his stoic sideline demeanor.
“We’re going to approach this in a thoughtful and respectful manner as we move forward, and that’s exciting to me to do it that way,” Trestman said of the XFL.
Wait. What? Thoughtful? Respectful?
Who is this guy? And how dare he bring thoughtfulness and respect to football?
You know who he is? He’s the foil to Vince McMahon, the egomaniacal World Wrestling Entertainment promoter who is backing XFL 2.0 with millions and millions of his billions and billions of dollars.
Trestman, 63, has never yelled, not even at Jay Cutler. He’s calm. He’s prudent. He chooses his words carefully, avoiding questions as benign as “What does the X in XFL stand for?” (He said he would rather leave that mystery to commissioner Oliver Luck and McMahon.)
So what if Trestman doesn’t wear a newsboy cap and have a catchphrase? He has more than three decades worth of coaching experience, most of it in the NFL and the Canadian Football League. He’s here to bring credibility to a league eager to shake its raunchy reputation.
That credibility is what led Luck to visit Toronto in mid January to meet Trestman, who had just had both of his hips replaced. They talked about football and how to improve the game, of course, but Trestman had questions. Questions about the XFL’s process. Questions about McMahon’s commitment. Questions about the league’s financial backing.
“He was gracious and transparent, and he answered a lot of my questions,” Trestman said of Luck. “And his answers and demeanor made it very clear to me that his process of building the new XFL would be an inclusive process with an experienced group of professionals executed at a high level of integrity.”
Luck said that when he made a list of coaching candidates, which grew to as many as 75, Trestman was one of his primary targets, largely because of his experience in the CFL, which uses a faster play clock. Teams have 20 seconds between plays, half the time that NFL teams have.
“I love his CFL experience,” Luck said. “That, in a sense, is the kind of game that we’re trying to play. If you sit and watch their season, it’s kind of fun, it’s compelling. We’re not going to have 12 guys on the field, we’re not going to have their motion and all that. The style that they play is attractive to us.”
In the CFL, Trestman won three Grey Cup championships and was twice named coach of the year. He spent five seasons with the Montreal Alouettes (2008-2012) and two with the Toronto Argonauts (2017-2018), who fired him in November after the team went 4-14.
Trestman said that once Luck sold him on the XFL, Tampa Bay became his preferred destination.
“My experience in the state of Florida, knowing the love and passion that people have for the game of football is extraordinary here,” he said. “There are only three or four states that really do have this kind of passion and this kind of quantity of players.”
And then there’s the climate.
“I’m not going to hide from that.”
Trestman doesn’t have deep ties to the state, but it is where he began his coaching career 38 years ago. In 1983, he became the quarterbacks coach for Bernie Kosar and the Miami Hurricanes team that won the national championship. In 1987, he served in the same role for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
His next steps: assembling a coaching staff and preparing for the XFL draft, which will take place sometime between mid to late September and early October.
Kickoff is set for the weekend of Feb. 8, one week after Super Bowl LIV. The Tampa Bay team, which does not yet have a name, will play its home games at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. Games will be played on Saturdays, Sundays and possibly Thursdays.
Contact Thomas Bassinger at [email protected]. Follow @tometrics.