The Chicago Bears hired Marc Trestman of the CFL's Montreal Alouettes as their new head coach on Wednesday. SB Nation talked with Alouettes GM Jim Popp the difference between the NFL and the CFL, Trestman's offensive schemes and his propensity to go for it in fourth-and-short situations.
What was your first reaction when you found out that Marc Trestman was such a serious candidate for the Bears job?
"Marc should have been a serious candidate for somebody. Fortunately for the Bears, it's them. Marc is an outstanding coach; he has been for years. Anyone who's worked with him or under him will tell you what he's about. He's an extremely organized guy. He has proven himself at a professional level. He should be head coach in the NFL."
Can you talk a little bit about the offensive schemes Marc likes to run? He comes with a Bill Walsh connection and a reputation for running a variation of the West Coast offense. Is he flexible/creative within the contours of that scheme?
"He's flexible and creative, there's no question about that. I would compare what we've done in Montreal the majority of the time with what you see in New Orleans with Drew Brees. Marc's very adaptable. This past season, we had a lot of injuries on offense and were still one of the highest scoring teams. We went from more of a spread offense to a two or three tight end package with a third-string running back. We never had our starting receiving corps together from game No. 3 on, and he adapted and adjusted. We still averaged over 30 points a game. He is creative and finds ways to get it done with what he has to work with."
Phil Emery talked a lot at a recent press conference about how he wants his next coach to adapt to the personnel. Based on the last answer, I'm guessing you've been able to see Trestman do that over the last five years as your head coach.
"There's no question. You're talking about a man who's played the position, coached the position. I'm talking about quarterback. He knows he has to build his system around that guy. I don't think there's any questions he'll get the most out of Jay Cutler. When you have the great running back that you have there and the offensive line that you do, he'll create a system where the quarterback will not be touched. He'll get big openings in the running game."
How would you describe Trestman's in-game play-calling style? Aggressive? Measured?
"Don't let his calm demeanor on the sidelines fool you. He's very calm and collected, but he's definitely aggressive and he's not afraid to go for it. I don't know how many times you can correlate it to the NFL, going for it on fourth down in short yardage, but he's going to try to push it through and go for it. And not always knowing what he's going to do. He can run or try to throw it when you need a two-yard gain. He keeps you off-balance."
As a GM, your job is find football players that didn't make it in the NFL and see the potential in them to be good CFL players. Can you describe how that also relates to Mark? I know your father worked in the NFL for a while and you've been around that league -- how do the NFL and CFL differ?
"Football is football, that's the biggest misconception. At any level of football, there are a couple differences in the rules, but the game itself is the same on the field. Pretty much the West Coast offense that is run was created in Canada. A lot of offenses you see today in the NFL have been run in the CFL for a number of years. It's not that big of a change when it comes to creativity. The thing is that you have to find new ways to challenge people. Marc has found a way to do that for five years. We've had, if not the highest scoring offense, one of the top two for five straight years. He was an innovator when he came in and a lot of teams tried to copy what he's doing. Then, he had to find a way to get creative out of his system and he's done that.
The game itself -- there are nuances to it -- but football is football. I promise you: You line up and you get after it. The Canadian Football League and the NFL interchange players. They're always looking for the younger guys. The CFL gets a lot of three-year vets. It's a great brand of football."
What are the most important qualities in a player to Marc?
"True character. We've been fortunate here in Montreal to have a great locker room. He is very big in having character people in the locker room and doing things the right way on and off the field. He's a true teacher. It's about being a great human being, and that's what he's going to push forward. That's what he believes in."
Your QB Anthony Calvillo has had a 19-year career, and he's continued to put up huge numbers in the last five years under Trestman. What changes have you noticed in him since he started working with Marc?
"The thing with Anthony -- after 14 years in the league, he was at that stage where he needed a new challenge. Marc truly did that. He came in and the system was a challenge. Anthony's a student of the game and a leader in the locker room and it just carried over to the rest of our ball club. Marc, as I've told others, whether it's the starting quarterback or the fifth quarterback he has, they'll all be prepared -- as will the rest of the team -- on game day to give you the best chance to win. I've never seen a quarterback in our system in the last five years, whether it's in training camp or the preseason, that didn't run the offense to a tee. Very few mistakes. Marc is a true teacher. He makes sure the players are coached up."
I saw you quoted as saying Marc has a very detailed and thorough approach to the game. He sounds very similar to Phil Emery in that sense. How do you think that will work in the NFL? How will he be able to communicate with the players?
"It'll go over well, I think. The one thing I do know -- my dad being a former NFL coach and me being around so many pro coaches -- players want to be coached. They want to be told what they did right and wrong. Coach Trestman will get that message across. He'll also treat them like true professionals. He's been around big-time people for a long time, that play or teach the game, and I think he's got it right. He knows how to handle a man, how to get their respect, to get them ready to play a football game. They'll be well prepared. They'll be told what they do right and wrong. That's what professionals want to be told. They want to get better. They don't want to find out about it after the fact. They want to know where they stand. That's the type of character Marc stands for."