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Chicago Bears look to Canada for their new coach

by Lisa Carter
Jan 16, 2013

Marc Trestman's Coaching Accolades:

  • Two playoff appearances, including an American Football Conference championship game in 1989 as offensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns
  • First playoff game for the Arizona Cardinals since 1982 and first playoff win since 1947 as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach
  • Guided the Oakland Raiders to an appearance in Super Bowl XXXVII as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator
  • Back-to-back Grey Cup championships in 2009 and 2010 as head coach of the Montreal Alouettes

The Chicago Bears’ process for filling their head coach vacancy ended early Wednesday with the hiring of Marc Trestman, former coach of the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes.

Trestman, who replaced Lovie Smith as the franchise’s 14th head coach, won back-to-back CFL Grey Cup championships in his five seasons as Montreal’s head coach. . He also mentored Bears’ quarterback Jay Cutler prior to his college football career at Vanderbilt University. But it will be his first stint as a National Football League head coach

The choice struck some people as odd. On Twitter, fans like Sean Caselton said, “Marc Trestman could be a genius hire or a complete disaster…Seems to have a good resume though. Excited for change.” Others such as Paul Pedram said, “I wouldn't be happy today if I was a #Bears fan...Going from Lovie Smith to CFL mainstay Marc Trestman is like going from steak to spam.”

Trestman was chosen over experienced National Football League offensive coordinators Darrell Bevell of the Seattle Seahawks and the Indianapolis Colts’ Bruce Arians. Although Trestman has previous NFL coaching experience as a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, some industry experts are skeptical of the decision to hire a coach from the CFL.

“I see the sort of thinking behind (the hire),” said Mike Freeman, CBS Sports football analyst. “The thinking behind it is you have Jay Cutler who is kind of a knucklehead and you need a guy you can respect. I think there are better people who can come in and do that.”

Freeman said the Bears could learn from teams such as the Philadelphia Eagles who hired former University of Oregon coach Chip Kelly to replace Andy Reid as their head coach. The difference between a coach like Kelly and Trestman, Freeman said, is having experience with college football teams that mirror those in the NFL.

“The top NCAA teams are better than the CFL teams,” Freeman said. “I just think in college, the rules are a little more similar to the NFL. There’s a little more defense…(Trestman’s) been almost a decade away from the NFL. That’s an eternity in football.”

The CFL and NFL differ in several aspects. For example, the CFL plays on a larger field and has 12 players versus the NFL’s 11 players on each side of the football. The CFL operates under a league-mandated $4.35 million salary cap per team whereas the NFL’s salary cap projected 2013 salary cap is approximately $121 million.

Jim Popp, Montreal Alouettes general manager and Trestman’s former boss, said the Bears are gaining a highly experienced and well-respected individual on their coaching staff.

“Chicago is getting a top-notch coach,” Popp said. “You’ve had one in Lovie Smith, but you’re also gaining one in Marc Trestman. He’ll do everything he can with Jay Cutler.”

The Chicago Bears franchise racked up estimated revenue of $286 million in 2012. Details of Trestman’s contract were not available Wednesday but Smith was earning $5.5 million a year. If he does not find another coaching job, the team will pay him for the last year of his contract.

A press conference introducing Trestman as the Bears’ head coach is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at Halas Auditorium.