When the Chicago Bears fired Lovie Smith in the aftermath of another playoff-free season, they left little doubt that they would be moving in a different direction after nine years of Smith’s defense-first philosophy. Just how different wasn’t certain until Tuesday.
As reported by the Chicago Tribune, the Bears have hired Marc Trestman as their new head coach. The well-traveled Trestman has been an assistant at both the college and NFL levels, but his most recent job has been turning the Montreal Alouettes into one of the Canadian Football League’s powerhouses.
In five seasons in Montreal, Trestman won a pair of Grey Cups (the Canadian analogue to the Super Bowl), so he knows something about thriving under postseason pressure. More importantly, though, his time in the offense-dominated CFL can only be good news for his hopes of turning around the Bears’ underachieving offense.
Despite the presence of rocket-armed Jay Cutler at quarterback and record-setting Brandon Marshall at wide receiver, Chicago finished 29th in the league passing and 28th in total offense. Trestman’s arrival will ensure that the Bears have an offense that can live up to their enormous talent on that side of the football.
In Trestman’s five seasons in Montreal, quarterback Anthony Calvillo averaged 5,089 passing yards a year, an eye-opening figure even in that pass-happy league. Calvillo earned a pair of league MVP awards under Trestman’s tutelage, and while Cutler is a long way from aspiring to that honor, there’s no reason he can’t duplicate the Pro Bowl recognition he earned in 2008 as a Bronco.
Trestman’s CFL success isn’t the only reason to expect big things from Cutler under his tutelage. At the NFL level, he’s served as offensive coordinator for another league MVP, Rich Gannon of the 2002 Raiders.
A better comparison for the brash Cutler, though, might be Trestman’s pupil from a previous offensive coordinator stint: scrambling, gunslinging Jake Plummer of the Arizona Cardinals. In Trestman’s offense, second-year pro Plummer threw for 3,737 yards at the helm of a playoff team.
Cutler now is a substantially more skilled passer than Plummer was then, and with a fair approximation of Plummer’s scrambling ability to boot. Look for Trestman to open up the offense—hopefully with help from some new blood at wide receiver—and give Cutler more chances to show off his impressive arm strength.
Since Cutler arrived in Chicago, he’s created plenty of his own problems with ill-timed interceptions, but he’s also been hamstrung by a series of poorly designed offenses and one-note offensive coordinators. If he can’t get the job done under the adaptable Trestman, Cutler will have only himself to blame.