Chicago Bears hire CFL's Trestman to replace fired coach
In this Nov. 25, 2009 photo, Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman stands on the field at McMahon Stadium during a practice in Calgary. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
Published Wednesday, January 16, 2013 9:35AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 16, 2013 11:35AM EST
CHICAGO -- The Bears hired Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman on Wednesday to replace the fired Lovie Smith, hoping he can get the most out of quarterback Jay Cutler and make Chicago a playoff team on a consistent basis.
It's the first NFL head-coaching job for Trestman, 57, a long-time assistant in the league who spent the past five seasons coaching the Alouettes, leading them to a 59-31 regular-season record and three Grey Cup appearances, winning twice.
Prior to arriving in the CFL in 2008, Trestman spent time in the NCAA coaching at Miami and North Carolina State and served in the NFL as a quarterback coach, running back coach and offensive co-ordinator with Minnesota (twice), Tampa Bay, Cleveland, San Francisco, Detroit, Arizona, Oakland, Miami.
Chicago general manager Phil Emery cast a wide net in his search, meeting with at least 13 candidates. Besides Trestman, he also brought back Seattle Seahawks offensive co-ordinator Darrell Bevell and the Indianapolis Colts' Bruce Arians for second interviews.
Smith was let go after nine years, ending a run that included a trip to the Super Bowl but also saw Chicago miss the playoffs five out of the past six seasons.
The Bears, who have scheduled a news conference for 11 a.m., are turning to Trestman in part because of his background with quarterbacks.
Trestman is regarded as an offensive guru and a quarterback technician. Alouettes veteran passer Anthony Calvillo, 40, has flourished under Trestman, passing for more than 5,000 three times since 2008 and that year he also had a career-high 43 TD passes.
Since 2008, Calvillo, pro football's all-time passing leader, has also won two Grey Cups, two CFL outstanding player awards and been named a league all-star three times.
Trestman worked with Bernie Kosar as an assistant at the University of Miami and again when he was on the Browns' staff in the 1980s. Trestman helped the Raiders reach the Super Bowl at the end of the 2002 season with an offence he geared for veteran Rich Gannon, the league's MVP that year.
Many of the NFL's top quarterback prospects look to Trestman to prepare them for their pro day as well as the league's annual combine. One of Trestman's most famous pupils was former Florida star Tim Tebow, who had been much criticized for his poor passing mechanics and long passing delivery.
In 2010, the Denver Broncos selected Tebow in the first round, 25th overall, in the NFL draft.
Trestman also worked with Bears starter Jay Cutler and backup Jason Campbell in their pre-draft preparations in addition to Brandon Weeden (2012 first-round pick, Cleveland Browns) and Jimmy Clausen (2010 second-round pick, Carolina Panthers).
In 2007, Trestman served as a consultant for current New Orleans head coach Sean Payton.
Last year, Trestman interviewed with the Indianapolis Colts about their head-coaching position and seemed to make a favourable impression on first-year GM Ryan Grigson, who reportedly endorsed Grigson for the vacant head-coaching jobs in the NFL.
Trestman's appointment comes less than a week after former NFL head coach Jimmy Johnson strongly suggested it. On Friday, Johnson, an NFL analyst with Fox, tweeted: "Looks like 2 of my guys getting NFL jobs..Chud Cleveland and my QB coach at U Trestman to Chicago."
The Browns did hire former offensive co-ordinator Rob Chudzinski as their head coach but the Bears were still interviewing candidates at the time of Johnson's tweet. Later Johnson, who led the Dallas Cowboys to Super Bowl glory, returned to Twitter later, saying: "I tweeted this morning "It LOOKS like 2 of my guys were getting NFL jobs not that Trestman got it!"
Trestman's biggest task in Chicago will be maximizing the man behind centre and getting the offence to click.
That's something that never really happened under Smith, who helped build a top defence around stars such as Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, but never could solve the issues on the other side of the ball. The Bears' offence never ranked higher than 15th under Smith, and the problems in that area along with the post-season misses ultimately led to his dismissal.
The Bears have big holes on the offensive line and at tight end, but the No. 1 task is connecting with Cutler. As gifted as he is, questions remain about his makeup and demeanour.
He has one year left on his contract, and the Bears have to figure out if he can lead them to the top. In Chicago, the deck at times has been stacked against him.
His relationship with former offensive co-ordinator Ron Turner seemed icy, and he took a beating in Mike Martz's system. The offence sputtered this year with Mike Tice calling the plays, and now Cutler will be working in his fourth system since the Bears acquired him from Denver in 2009.
Besides the issues on the line the past few years, Cutler also lacked a go-to receiver his first three years in Chicago, but that changed in a big way before this season. The Bears hired Emery to replace the fired Jerry Angelo as GM after a late collapse last year, and although he was given a mandate to work with Smith for at least a year, he was able to retool the roster.
The biggest move? That was the trade with Miami for Brandon Marshall, Cutler's favourite target in Denver.
Marshall set club records for catches and yards, but the Bears still ranked 28th on offence.
It didn't help that receivers Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett missed time with injuries or that running back Matt Forte was banged up and uninvolved at times, whether it was in the run or passing game.
The Bears also have an aging core on defence and a big question at middle linebacker. Urlacher has an expiring contract and missed the last four games with a hamstring injury after being limited by a knee problem, and the eight-time Pro Bowler might have played his final down for Chicago.
Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman, star defensive end Julius Peppers and linebacker Lance Briggs all are in their 30s.
Despite having some aging stars, the Bears' defence ranked fifth overall and picked off a league-leading 24 passes while returning and NFL-best eight interceptions for touchdowns.
Their special teams remain a strong point, too, even if Devin Hester failed to return a kickoff or punt for a touchdown.
With files from The Canadian Press