Extra Points: Out of the box means north of the border for Bears
Philadelphia, PA – Forget out of the box, the Chicago Bears went north of the border in an effort to get the most out of their enigmatic but extremely talented quarterback Jay Cutler.
Marc Trestman was introduced as the new Bears head coach Thursday, not exactly the most popular move in the Windy City since the ex-CFL mentor was an under- the-radar candidate in a market flooded with big college names, hot coordinators and proven standbys like Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden and Brian Billick.
Chicago, like just about every other franchise that was looking for a head coach, didn't seriously consider the big names but Bruce Arians, the ex- Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator and interim head coach who got the Arizona job late Thursday night, and Seattle offensive chief Darrell Bevell joined Trestman as "finalists" after Phil Emery's exhaustive first round of 14 different interviews.
Emery is just the latest NFL general manager to subscribe to the theory that most of the innovation in football, especially offensive football, is taking place outside the league in places like college, the Arena Football League and Canada, where Trestman was a two-time Grey Cup winner as the head coach of the Montreal Alouettes.
Nearly 800 miles away in Philadelphia, the Eagles were introducing their own "innovator," Chip Kelly, who made the leap to the big stage from the University of Oregon. And Kelly opened the window to the progressive mind-set that pervades a lot of NFL front offices these days.
"Football is football," Kelly said when asked about making the jump. "This is football at its highest level, but it's still a game that's played 11-on-11. It's about putting together a great coaching staff, having a great organization behind you and having great players. Ultimately, whether it's high school football, college football or professional football, it's a personnel-driven operation."
Translation -- talent always trumps coaching in the NFL and these days, perhaps more than ever, it's about getting a guy who can get the most out of the personnel at his disposal, not a hard-headed system slave intent on pounding the square peg in the round hole.
In the Windy City, Trestman takes over a Bears team that went 10-6 in 2012, but missed the playoffs for the second straight season despite having one of the most talented quarterbacks around.
That and the inability to beat the Green Bay Packers cost Lovie Smith his job after nine fairly successful years, opening the door for an unproven commodity.
The Bears made the playoffs three times in nine seasons under Smith, losing in the Super Bowl to Indianapolis after the 2006 campaign and reaching the NFC title game following the 2010 season. The era was hardly a down time for Chicago football but the franchise couldn't shake the label of underachiever.
It will be Trestman's job to figure out how to take the next step and that means getting the most out of Cutler, who some have already labeled a coach- killer, pointing to his troubles in Denver with Josh McDaniels and Smith's departure from the Second City as evidence.
That's probably a little unfair since McDaniels' massive ego was arguably the bigger problem in the Rockies and Smith's shelf life in Chicago was past due. That said, Cutler's on-field antics and sideline pouting sessions are real and a significant problem since the nature of his position demands leadership qualities.
The immature Cutler has always been about blaming others for his own poor body language and intemperate demeanor instead of looking in the mirror and taking ownership of the situation.
Smith is far too classy to throw Cutler under any buses, but he's Trestman's problem now, one the Minnesota native is eager to tackle.
"I can't wait to get my hands on him." Trestman said at his introductory press conference.
A long-time NFL assistant, Trestman spent the past five seasons as head coach of the Alouettes, earning CFL Coach of the Year honors in 2009 before capturing back-to-back Grey Cup titles in '09 and 2010.
Prior to that he was a nondescript NFL assistant with stints in Minnesota, Tampa, Cleveland, San Francisco, Detroit, Arizona, Oakland and Miami, never lasting more than three years at any stop.
Despite that nomadic existence, which also included a brief stop in college as an offensive coordinator at North Carolina State, Trestman has always had a cult following among his peers, largely for his ability to develop successful quarterbacks.
Trestman's former boss in Montreal has no doubts the Bears found the right man, taking to the Jarrett Payton show on Chicagolandsportsradio.com to sing his praises.
"He will take Jay Cutler and he will get the best out of (him), but the entire system will be built around Cutler," Alouettes general manger Jim Popp explained. "What I do know is (the Bears) have a quarterback in the pocket to make all the throws. Jay's capable of that. Marc will devise something for Jay and they'll be successful in the offensive end."
Emery is staking his reputation on it and pointed to the hurdles Trestman has already successfully navigated.
"The mental toughness that it takes to go into a place that you've never been before (Montreal) where they don't know you or anything about you, where they speak a foreign language in a game that's different than the one you've been coaching (is impressive)," Emery said.
The understated Trestman is no Mike Ditka. There will be no bluster or bravado, just a low-key approach and scholarly attention to detail.
Trestman has already won over Emery's wife with his favorite saying, something he heard on the television show "Criminal Minds" -- "What I do for myself, is buried with me. What I do for others lives forever."
"He told me that he got that quote from 'Criminal Minds,'" Emery chuckled. "So there was another connection, because my wife and I, we love 'Law and Order' and 'Criminal Minds,' so I knew we had a match made in heaven."
The Chicago fans will be a bit tougher to come around.
"This (is) clearly a franchise that has the highest expectations for its team, where winning consistently is a standard," Trestman said. "When you do win consistently, you play for championships on a yearly basis. I confidently embrace (the challenge)."
The rest of us hesitantly await the results.