Phil Emery wasted no time plunging head first into his search for the Bears new head coach once he removed Lovie Smith from the position.
Emery hasn’t shown an interest in the usual list of suspects…I mean, candidates like Bill Cowher, John Gruden, etc. While he has filled his interview list with some interesting names that have the promise and football intelligence to be head coaches, most are names that Bears fans may not have an in-depth knowledge of.
I, Tom Pollin and my long-time writing colleague Erik Grogan have covered the NFL and the Bears extensively for Football Nation and agreed it was time to familiarize fans with the names and debate the merits of some of the coaches that have been mentioned for the Bears’ position. Here is part one of our conversation.
Erik Grogan: Give me your thoughts on Marc Trestman. A lot of people have high regards for him and respect. Why?
Tom Pollin: Trestman has been head coach for the Montreal Alouettes for five seasons and led them to consecutive Grey Cup Championships in 2009 and 2010 (think Canadian Lombardi Trophy).
He started as an assistant coach at the University of Miami in 1981 and has been an assistant in pro and college football until heading north in 2008 for the CFL.
He was the quarterbacks coach at the University of Miami in 1983 when Bernie Kosar led the team to a national championship and coached Kosar again in 1988 as quarterbacks coach and in 1989 as the Browns’ offensive coordinator.
Kosar passed for 3,533-yards and 18 touchdowns that season. Webster Slaughter set a then franchise record with 1,236 receiving yards (still No. 2 in Browns’ history) and the Browns went to the AFC Championship Game. That game was famous for “The Fumble”; Ernest Byner’s fumble at the Broncos 2-yard line with a minute left that cost the Browns an appearance in Super Bowl XXIV.
In 1995 he joined George Seifert’s 49ers coaching staff as offensive coordinator, replacing Mike Shanahan. With Steve Young, and when Young hurt his shoulder, Elvis Grbac at quarterback, the 49ers were the No. 1 passing offense and led the NFL in points scored that season.
In 2002 he was named offensive coordinator of the Oakland Raiders the year quarterback Rich Gannon led the NFL in passing and was named MVP. That season was the last time the Raiders appeared in a Super Bowl.
Since 2008 he’s been the head coach of the Montreal Allouettes. With only three downs to gain 10-yards, the wider field and 20-yard deep end zones the passing attack is much more prominent in the CFL, an important consideration for the Bears.
Bud Grant for the Vikings and Marv Levy for the Bills were both CFL coaches who achieved great success in the NFL, though that success never included a Super Bowl victory.
Looking at Trestman’s website you find that he is also a motivational speaker and quarterback consultant. He prepares quarterbacks for the NFL Combine and their Pro Days. He trained Brandon Weeden and Brock Osweiler for the 2012 draft and in 2006, prepared a quarterback out of Vanderbilt for his draft. That quarterback, Jay Cutler, was the first round choice of the Denver Broncos.
How does all of this strike you Erik?
Erik Grogan: I am actually a little bit disappointed and the head coaches you compared him to did not set my mind at ease. The records, history, and success that Trestman has achieved are great but it seems that all of the teams he has been a part of have choked in big games.
However, his ability to spot talent is something that I believe the Bears could use and it could help the team overall. I could care less about Trestman's record or stats in the CFL. It isn't a good translator of what he can bring to the table because it's a different game. That being said, Trestman has been able to create some really good offenses that seem to have done their best under his tutelage.
Even with his ability to get talent out of nothing, sounds like Belichick, I am not 100% against him being the Bears next coach but I'm not overly impressed. What do you think Tom?
Tom Pollin: It's true that his football history involves teams that have always fallen short but he does know the passing game and he has an established connection with Jay Cutler. From what I’ve seen he may be the most interesting person being considered for the Bears position.
What puzzles me is why two special teams coordinators are on the list of candidates. The Falcons’ Keith Armstrong is on the list and Emery has already talked to the Dallas Cowboys' Joe DeCamillis. Has he been infected by working under Jerry Jones (and Jason Garrett)? What does either have to bring to the table besides a healthy appetite?
Erik Grogan: I believe Emery might be impressed with special team coaches because of their ability to get something out of nothing. A lot of special team coaches are fiery and meticulous. That's something Emery is looking for.
In all honesty, I think Emery is doing a favor for a friend to help get someone out there as a head coach candidate because besides Toub, I am not impressed with another special team coach in the league. How do you feel about it?
Tom Pollin: There are examples of special teams coordinators who've made very good head coaches. Two that quickly come to mind would be John Harbaugh with the Ravens and a couple of decades back, Mike Ditka with the Bears.
The drawback to a special teams coach, they need strong offensive and defensive coordinators in place to be successful. An OC or DC hired as a head coach runs their system and oversees the other unit.
If Emery is serious about considering a special teams coach for the Bears then he has one of the best in the business on his own staff in Dave Toub. The Cowboys and Falcons don't have special teams that can hold a candle to what Toub consistently puts together for the Bears.
I believe Emery went to DeCamillis and Armstrong to get a peek behind the curtains of both organizations and gain a bit of intelligence on how they operate. Very shrewd on Emery's part and the reason why I don't care how big his initial list of interviewees is. So, what name on the prospect list stands out to you?
Erik Grogan: If a future head coach could impress me then Bruce Arians has done it. When you look at Arians' history on where he has coached on offense, you feel comfortable knowing he has had success and knows how to utilize each position. Arians has been a running back coach, a tight end coach, a wide receiver coach, and a quarterback coach in the NFL.
The quarterbacks he has helped develop and has coached seem to be doing really well in the NFL. Arians was Peyton Manning's first quarterback coach in Manning's first season in the NFL. Ben Roethlisberger has enjoyed the majority of Arians success by winning two Super Bowls with Arians calling plays for him. Rookie Andrew Luck is one of the nominees for Rookie of the Year and I am sure he wouldn't deny the impact that Arians has made on him and the 2012 Colts.
I can name three wide receivers that have all thrived in Pittsburgh because of Arians, Plaxico Burress, Santoino Holmes and Mike Wallace. With the exception of Burress, Holmes and Wallace struggled without Arians and all had their best seasons with Arians as their coach.
Thus, his development in players is something that I believe has gone unnoticed and the only thing that has stopped Arians from achieving a head coach job was his inexperience. That has changed.
Last year in 2012, when the Bears were still looking for an offensive coordinator, I was hoping they would give Arians a call. Sadly and hopefully, it was a blessing that it turned out that way. As of now, a lot of other teams are considering hiring Arians because of how he led the Colts, who were 2-14 the year before, to 9-3 this season as Coach Pagano was recovering from Leukemia. Pagano's time off gave Arians a shot to prove to others that he is ready to be a head coach. What do you think?
Tom Pollin: I give Arians a lot of credit for taking over a team that was in the beginning of their rebuilding process and leading them for all but the final game to a 10-6 record and the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs. I’m also sure Arians’ tutelage of Andrew Luck had a lot to do with his success this season.
Arians is known for his success with quarterbacks. In his first offensive coordinator position in Cleveland he was responsible for the glory years of Tim Couch’s career. Roethlisberger was already an established NFL quarterback when Arians began in Pittsburgh but they had excellent seasons when they teamed up.
Arians is known as a player’s coach, something Bears fans are very familiar with (see Lovie Smith). Still, Roethlisberger has said that Arians can be tough if necessary.
Is it a coincidence that the Steelers offense struggled so much this season with Arians gone and Todd Haley in to replace him. I don’t think so. Arians knows how to put together a passing attack to fit the personnel on his teams. When is the last time the Bears have had that kind of advantage.
I know there are some questions about Arians’ age but not with me. There are two kinds of age. Some feel they have learned all they need to know and try to bend all they encounter to that reality; I would count Mike Martz and his offensive philosophy in that group.
Others are old in years but not in mind. They make it their goal in life to learn and never be satisfied to stand in one place when there’s more to be discovered. That Arians has continued to be very successful through the years and helped Luck to achieve a successful rookie season shows he belongs in this group.
There have been a couple of developments since you’ve written your piece of this discussion. The Chargers hired Tom Telesco, the Colts vice president of player personnel, as their new general manager. If anyone has the inside track on landing Bruce Arians as head coach it would be him. The Bears may never get a chance at him.
Erik Grogan: We are pretty much on the same page when it comes to Arians. I agree with you 100% on Arians age not being a real concern. He has not stayed in one place and has been successful just about everywhere he has gone.
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