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Bears’ Trestman anonymous no more

Published: Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
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(AP photo)
Montreal Alouettes head football coach Marc Trestman during a press conference in Montreal on Nov. 22, 2008. The Chicago Bears have hired Trestman as their head coach. He replaces Lovie Smith, who was fired Dec. 31 after nine seasons. Trestman spent the past five seasons with the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes and led them to two Grey Cup titles.

Imagine your next job interview going something like this:

Boss: So, I see from your résumé that you have worked with a lot of different organizations. What’s the reason that you have bounced around so much?

You: Well, I’ve been dismissed a lot.

Boss: But they liked you in Canada?

You: Yes, sir.

Boss: Sounds good to me. Welcome aboard!

OK, clearly I did not eavesdrop on any of the Bears’ interviews with Marc Trestman. The well-traveled Minnesota native became the 14th head coach in franchise history Wednesday as the Bears announced his hiring in a 4:07 a.m. news release.

If it’s possible to throw a curveball in football, then this is it.

At least, that’s what I thought until the Manti Te’o story broke about 12 hours later.

Until recently, Trestman was about as familiar for most Bears fans as a hot dog covered in ketchup. He could have strolled down Michigan Avenue in a Bears visor while handing out playbooks, and police would have told him to get lost.

Now, he’s the head coach of the most popular team in the city.

Will Trestman prove to be a terrific hire or a colossal bust? It’s impossible to know.

One thing is for certain: Bears general manager Phil Emery is not tentative. He fired nine-year coaching veteran Lovie Smith after a 10-6 season and bypassed more widely known candidates (Bruce Arians of the Indianapolis Colts, for example) to hire a head coach out of the Canadian Football League for the first time since 1982.

Here’s hoping the new partnership works out well for all involved.

Like Emery, Trestman is a grinder who worked for decades without becoming a household name. He started his coaching career in 1981 as a volunteer assistant at the University of Miami and eventually ended up as the head coach of the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes.

In between, Trestman worked for 17 years as an assistant coach in the NFL.

Trestman called plays for the Cleveland Browns for one season in 1989, but they moved on without him. He served a two-year stint as offensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers from 1995-96 before he was replaced again.

After that came a three-year stint as offensive coordinator with Jake Plummer and the Arizona Cardinals (1998-2000), followed by two seasons in the same role with Rich Gannon and the Oakland Raiders (2002-03).

Almost everywhere, Trestman’s offenses enjoyed success.

So why did he end up in Canada?

We should learn more about Trestman’s journey today when he is introduced at Halas Hall. Changing jobs is common in the NFL, but what’s more unusual is a team investing its Super Bowl hopes in a 57-year-old with no previous NFL head coaching experience and who has been out of the league since 2004.

Today, I’m hoping to hear specifics from Trestman about his plans to repair a broken offense and to help Jay Cutler develop into a top-tier quarterback.

In the meantime, Trestman’s track record offers reasons for optimism.

Based on Trestman’s past stints in San Francisco and elsewhere, expect the Bears to install a version of the pro-style “West Coast” offense that includes plenty of passing and little (if any) read-option plays. Matt Forte could be used more as a receiver out of the backfield. Cutler could roll out of the pocket with greater frequency.

In terms of Mikes, the Bears’ new offense could resemble more Martz than Tice.

Yet Trestman arrives with a much friendlier reputation than the “Mad Scientist” Martz, who stubbornly tried to jam his offensive scheme on the roster he inherited. Trestman is more likely to adapt his scheme to the strengths of his players while his reported offensive coordinator, ex-New Orleans Saints assistant Aaron Kromer, works on improving an offensive line that long has been one of the worst in the NFL.

Trestman’s tenure in relative obscurity ended Wednesday.

The cameras start rolling today.

• Tom Musick covers Chicago professional sports for Shaw Media. Write to him at tmusick@shawmedia.com.

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