Jay Cutler has been through this before. His team fired their immensely popular and successful coach to go in a different direction. The last time, that different direction didn't include him, and with the Chicago Bears' hire of Marc Trestman, it could be the same story.
Trestman is certainly qualified to be the next Bears head coach. Even though he hasn't been a coordinator in the NFL since 2003, his work in that role was exceptional. He called plays for offenses that ranked in the top three in scoring three times, including the best offense with the San Francisco 49ers in 1995.
In 16 combined seasons, the other two candidates—Bruce Arians and Darrell Bevell—have had a top-three offense just once, that coming in in 2009 when Bevell's Vikings finished second. It's worth noting, however, that Bevell didn't call plays for that team.
He won two championships in three seasons as the head coach of the Montreal Alouettes. His critics say that won't translate to the NFL, but it isn't unlike a collegiate coach making the jump, and those have proven to be successful recently.
Trestman's offense requires quarterbacks to be smart and accurate, with a lot of short passes. It's the kind of offense that players like Steve Young and Rich Gannon excel in, but it isn't exactly Cutler's forte, as 11 of his 14 interceptions came on throws under 20 yards last season.
It's similar to the offense Josh McDaniels runs. He didn't think Cutler was a fit, so it's possible Trestman will come to the same conclusion.
In a highlight clip from 2002, when Trestman was the Raiders' offensive coordinator, Rich Gannon threw 21 consecutive completions, 16 of which were thrown under 10 yards. That clip is old, but you can see here that Trestman's offense hasn't changed a lot in Canada, as seven of the 10 passes shown in this clip are under 10 yards.
In fairness to Trestman, neither quarterback has anywhere near the arm Cutler has. In this clip from 1995, you see Steve Young pushing the ball down the field more.
The play-calling in all of these clips is impressive. Each offense seem to be operating efficiently and effectively, as the quarterbacks are passing to open receivers. Trestman also seems to like to move the pocket, something Bears fans have been begging for because mobility is one of Cutler's strengths.
Still, the one thing both Young and Gannon have on Cutler is their ability to be accurate on a consistent basis, something Cutler has yet to show. With that being said, neither have anywhere near the cannon Cutler has, and the best coaches adjust to their talent. The Green Bay Packers run a similar offense, based on short, timing routes, but they also allow Rodgers to use his arm to push the ball down the field.
Ideally, Trestman will get Cutler to adjust like Mike Holmgren did with Brett Favre in Green Bay. Both are going to have to be flexible if they're going to excel and get the Bears offense to the level Trestman was at with the 49ers and Raiders and Cutler was at with the Broncos.
While Cutler may not be an ideal fit, Trestman's offense gets the ball to the playmakers, which is good news for Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall. Although his teams have never ranked in the top half in rushing attempts, his primary running backs have averaged more than 65 catches per season. He also had a 1,000-yard receiver in six of his eight seasons, with his team's leading receiver averaging 86 catches per season.
Trestman also seems to understand the importance of protecting the quarterback. In his first season with Montreal, the Alouettes gave up 46 fewer sacks than they did the previous season, despite throwing 87 more passes. His first hire was New Orleans Saints offensive line coach Aaron Kromer as his offensive coordinator. This past season, the Saints gave up just 26 sacks on 696 dropbacks, while the Bears gave up 44 in 529. Cutler has been great when he's had time.
Trestman seems like he has a plan, and his offense has proven successful in the past. If he and Cutler can get on the same page, the Bears should light up the scoreboard next year. If they can't, Trestman and Emery may look for a quarterback who fits the offense better.
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