The Bears went north of the border to replace Lovie Smith, returning Marc Trestman to the NFL after almost a decade away. It was time well spent for Trestman, who took over the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL and turned them from an 8-10 also-ran into a two-time Grey Cup champion with a 59-31 record and four division titles in his five seasons at the helm.
But we’ll get to the Great White North in a moment. A former college quarterback at the University of Minnesota, Trestman has plenty of NFL history on his resume, including stints as offensive coordinator for the Browns, 49ers, Cardinals, and most famously the Raiders during their Super Bowl run in 2002. As an OC or quarterbacks coach he’s worked with Steve Young, Bernie Kosar, Jake Plummer, and Rich Gannon—including directing Gannon to the league MVP in 2002 as the Raiders owned the league’s top passing offense.
More quarterback mentoring: as OC at North Carolina State Trestman also recruited Russell Wilson; he has also served as personal QB trainer to a bevy of recent draft picks including Brandon Weeden, Jason Campbell, Tim Tebow (all first-rounders), Brock Osweiler, and Jimmy Clausen (both second-round picks).
And back to Canada for the coup de grace: veteran Anthony Calvillo averaged more than 5,000 yards per season during Trestman’s five years at the helm in Montreal, winning two MVP awards in the process.
So with maximizing Jay Cutler’s productivity atop the priority list, the Bears opted to give Trestman an opportunity long coming.
There are obvious benefits to having someone with Trestman’s pedigree working with Cutler, and you can add to that an issue that has long troubled the Bears: protecting the quarterback. A proponent of the West Coast offense, Trestman took over an Alouettes team that had surrendered 68 sacks (in 625 pass attempts) the previous season and downgraded that number to 22 (in 712 dropbacks) in his first season at the helm. The WCO’s three-step drops, along with input from former Saints offensive line coach Aaron Kromer—now the Bear’s offensive coordinator—can only help Cutler stay upright.
Big receivers like Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are tailor-made for the WCO, as well as something Trestman is accustomed to working with: all four starting receivers for the Alouettes last year measured 6-2 or better. And there may even be enough for both, as last year the pass-happy Alouettes produced two 1,000-yard receivers even though neither S.J. Green (14) nor Jamel Richardson (15) played in every game for Montreal.
In what is becoming a Chicago tradition, fantasy owners can ignore any tight ends on the Bears’ roster. Even though the WCO historically requires productivity from the position only one—Brent Jones in San Francisco—has had more than 33 catches in a Trestman-run NFL offense. Only once has a tight end topped four touchdowns under Trestman, and that was backup Ted Popson in San Francisco. So again, nothing to see here.
With the CFL being so pass-oriented you can’t glean much from the Alouette’s rushing stats. However, the team’s top back, Brandon Whitaker, had almost as many receiving yards (516) as rushing yards (631) and scored more receiving touchdowns (5) than rushing TDs (4); sounds like Matt Forte’s game to a T. Also, backup quarterback Adrian McPherson led the team in rushing touchdowns with nine.
Trestman’s previous NFL offenses also saw QB rushing scores: 11 in two seasons in San Francisco (and not all Steve Young; Elvis Grbak got in on the fun as well), six in two seasons in Arizona, and surprisingly only four in three years in Oakland. Trestman also used goal line backs in Arizona (Mario Bates) and Oakland (Zack Crockett), so Michael Bush may still have fantasy use in TD-heavy scoring systems.
Ultimately it’s a change for the Bears in switching from a defensive emphasis to an offensive one. But there is definitely personnel in place for Trestman to run his version of the WCO successfully, and his strengths seem well-suited for addressing areas in which Chicago’s offense has been lacking—namely pass protection and squeezing the most out of Jay Cutler.