Marc Trestman carries impressive CFL resume to Chicago
Former South Florida wide receiver S.J. Green had 62 catches during his entire four-year collegiate career. He had 61 just this season alone for the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes, after hauling in 87 receptions in 2011.
So Green, for one, is plenty convinced that his former Alouettes coach Marc Trestman is ready for his new role as head coach of the Chicago Bears.
“I feel like he’ll do very well,” Green said early Wednesday morning, speaking with SI.com right after the Bears announced they had tabbed Trestman to replace Lovie Smith. “He entered the West Coast offense into what we did. It was a hard transition … (but) the offense we ran is pretty much what you see in an NFL game.
“I can watch NFL teams and call out plays that we run. The offense we run, I’m sure, will be successful in the NFL. By choosing Chicago, (Trestman) feels like he has the personnel he needs.”
Trestman’s game plans certainly paid off with the Alouettes. In 2008, Trestman inherited a team that had gone 8-10 the year prior and promptly led them to an 11-7 mark. That season ended with a trip to the Grey Cup (the CFL’s Super Bowl equivalent), the first of three straight Alouettes appearances in the game. They won the title in both 2009 and ’10.
“What he’s done as a head coach in the CFL has been really impressive,” Andrew Bucholtz of Yahoo’s CFL blog, the 55-Yard Line, told SI.com via email. “He’s helped the Alouettes take a jump from a good team to a great one.
“General manager Jim Popp, who’s drawing NFL interest of his own, is also a part of that, but the Alouettes, and quarterback Anthony Calvillo in particular, have gone to a new level during Trestman’s tenure.”
News of Calvillo’s improvement ought to be music to Bears’ fans ears. No doubt, Chicago’s hiring of Trestman has a lot to do with the belief that he can push Jay Cutler to the next level.
Trestman was an NFL assistant coach, for various teams, from 1985-2004. During that run he worked with the likes of Bernie Kosar, Steve Young, Scott Mitchell, Jake Plummer and Rich Gannon — all of whom thrived, with Trestman’s help.
Calvillo threw for an average of 5,089 yards during Trestman’s five seasons with Montreal. And while the CFL and NFL games have their differences, Trestman’s offense could help Cutler and the Bears reach a high ceiling offensively.
“One thing he does is he uses his talent to his advantage,” Green said. “If he has a good receiver, he’s going to scheme his offense there – he builds around what he has, from the quarterback on down.”
From a personality standpoint, Trestman may remind Bears fans of Smith — “I think there would certainly be some similarities to Lovie Smith,” Bucholtz said, “but they’re not completely identical” — though the most noticeable changes could come on the field, where the Bears have turned from the defense-first thinking of Smith to Trestman’s offensive-minded background.
As such, the trick for Trestman will be to catapult the Chicago offense forward without ruining the team’s identity as an opportunistic defensive outfit.
“This is a fair concern, and the Alouettes’ defense hasn’t been all that great lately,” Bucholtz said. “However, their defense has shone at times during Trestman’s tenure, and it was the primary reason for their 2010 Grey Cup victory.
“I think the key there is finding the right guy as defensive coordinator. This past year, Jeff Reinebold didn’t seem like the ideal fit (and the Alouettes parted ways with him after the season). If Trestman can find a talented defense coordinator whom he can work with, I wouldn’t worry about the defense too much.”
Bucholtz also pointed out that Trestman has been an “excellent motivator” while with the Alouettes, an aspect of Trestman’s coaching style that Green spoke highly of, as well.
Green played his college ball under the fiery, in-your-face Jim Leavitt. Trestman, he said, is a 180 from that approach.
“Two totally different coaches — both effective coaches, but Trestman is more of a laid-back coach,” Green said. “He’s not going to get in your face, he’s not going to cuss you out … if he needs to get his point across, he can and will.”
Even with all of Trestman’s CFL accolades, though, this constitutes a major roll of the dice for the Bears. Trestman has not coached in the NFL since 2004 and he has not called plays for an NFL team in more than a decade.
There is past evidence of the CFL-to-NFL jump working — former Bills coach Marv Levy went that route, as did ex-Vikings head man Bud Grant (who brought Trestman to the NFL as Minnesota’s running backs coach in 1985). This is a leap of faith from the Bears, nonetheless.
“There’s no dispute that the CFL and NFL are different games and that the NFL would be an adjustment for Trestman,” Bucholtz said. “But in some ways, I think it may be less of an adjustment than it would be for an NFL offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator to take over as a head coach.
“The game’s different, but the head coach’s responsibilities are very similar: put together a solid game plan, hire a good staff, get the most out of your staff and your players and get all the pieces to fit together.”
Trestman has done that, and then some, while with the Alouettes.
This gamble may backfire on the Bears down the road. You’ll have a hard time finding anyone who’s worked with Trestman predicting a flop, though.
“If you pay attention to what Trestman’s saying, he’s always saying something you can learn from,” Green said. “He’s been around the block a couple of times — he has his methods of doing things and making things work in his favor.”