By Paul Steeno
The Monday after week 16, a day synonymous with head coach firings, lived up to its dark reputation as seven head coaches found themselves unemployed. Among these unhappy coaches was Bears lead man, Lovie Smith. Thousands of fans throughout the country expressed their displeasure about the firing, questioning the intelligence of firing a coach that had just led his team to a 10-6 record. Lovie Smith lost his job for several primary reasons. First, when Lovie Smith was hired in 2004 he boldly stated that his number one goal wasto beat the Packers. This unfortunately never materialized; Lovie Smith is 8-11 against the Packers, and has lost the last 6 games against the division rival. The second reason contributing to Lovie’s downfall was his horrendous 19-38 record against teams with winning records which overshadows his respectable 81-63 career record as head coach of the bears. Finally, Lovie Smith is an exclusively defensive-minded coach who hasn’t produced an offense ranked higher than 15th in his tenure with the Bears. If Lovie coached in the ‘70s or ’80 he would probably have multiple Super Bowl Championships. But in an era of elite offenses capable of racking up 30+ points a game, a bulimic offense year-after-year isn’t going to cut it. These three reasons provide complete justification for firing Lovie Smith.
On Wednesday January 16 in the early hours of the day, Phil Emery (the Bears new GM) announced that he had chosen Marc Trestman to fill the head coaching vacancy. Trestman has significant NFL offensive coordinator experience. He has twenty years of experience in the NFL as offensive coordinator including a stint mentoring Steve Young who won multiple Super Bowls in the 90s. In 2008, Trestman was appointed head coach of the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League. Under his tutelage, the Alouettes won two Grey Cups (equivalent to the NFLs Super Bowl). Trestman is also known for his exceptional job of preparing college quarterbacks for the NFL combine, including Tim Tebow, Jimmie Clausen, and most importantly Jay Cutler. Legendary 49ers quarterback Steve Young described Trestman as being, “a dynamic straight shooter. He’s a soft spoken guy, but the Bears with their defensive history…this is going to be a great hire”.
Upon initial review the upside of Marc Trestman makes him seen like an ideal pick for the Bears coaching job. However, Trestman has several very disturbing holes in his resume coupled with many unanswered questions. In 2004, Trestman ended his stint in the NFL and took a four year leave from coaching. In 2005 there were five head coach vacancies and in 2006 there were seven head coach vacancies. If Trestman was such a good offensive coordinator how come he was unable to secure one of those twelve head coaching spots? Also, isn’t the CFL the place where coaches and players go who can’t cut it in the NFL? Finally, the CFL is significantly different than the NFL in terms of rules, regulations, and successful strategy. Trestman hasn’t been a part of the NFL since 2004. How long of an adjustment period will Trestman need in order to acclimate again to the NFL? The Bears and their fans want to start winning now, therefore hiring a coach who hasn’t coached in the NFL since 2004 and doesn’t have NFL head coaching experience may have been an unwise decision.
Phil Emery’s decision to hire Marc Trestman can best be described as risky. There were certainly more experienced candidates available for hire, but Emery chose Trestman. Only time will tell if Phil Emery made the right decision.