In the weeks since the Chicago Bears fired Lovie Smith as head coach, no fewer than 13 names have emerged as targets to replace him. After a slew of candidate interviews, though, the Bears’ priorities are finally starting to become a little clearer.
As reported by NFL.com, Chicago seems to have tabbed three of its prospects as finalists by inviting them back for second visits with the team. That frontrunning trio consists of Montreal Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman of the Canadian Football League, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell of the Seattle Seahawks, and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians of the Indianapolis Colts.
Given the Bears’ obvious desire to move away from the one-dimensional defensive teams of the Smith era, it’s little surprise to see three offense-heavy choices leading the pack here. Trestman, in addition to his experience in the freewheeling CFL, can match the NFL experience of his competitors with stints as offensive coordinator for both the Cardinals and Raiders.
All three coaches have also shown a particular affinity for grooming strong-armed quarterbacks. Bevell and Arians both turned in eye-opening seasons in 2012 with rookies Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck, respectively, while Trestman’s best NFL seasons came with Jake Plummer at the Cardinals’ helm.
Considering both Jay Cutler’s enormous talent and the Bears’ equally enormous investment in his success, finding a coach who can maximize Cutler’s performance had to be the Bears’ major priority. All three finalists appear well equipped to give the erratic QB a chance to become a bona fide star.
The one area where Trestman stands alone, though, is that he won’t be stepping into a head coaching position for the first time. No, the CFL isn’t the NFL, but even a CFL head coaching job brings a very different set of responsibilities from a top-level assistant’s post in either league.
With either Bevell or Arians, it’s almost inevitable that the adjustment to running the entire team would detract from their ability to revamp Chicago’s offense immediately. Trestman, already accustomed to the top job, would be able to hit the ground running.
That’s no small advantage for a Bears team with the clock ticking on its chance to shine. The aging defense has been repeatedly plagued by injuries, while the offense could lose Cutler to free agency as soon as 2014 (and top wideout Brandon Marshall a year later).
If Chicago is going to turn into a winner with anything resembling its current personnel grouping, it must get a strong first season from its new head coach. No one is readier to provide that season than Trestman.