Two coaching hires in the NFL on Wednesday raised some eyebrows around the league. The Chicago Bears got the day started by announcing Marc Trestman as their new head coach, replacing the recently fired Lovie Smith. Just hours later, the Philadelphia Eagles surprised some observers by hiring Chip Kelly as their new head coach, replacing Andy Reid who was the coach of the Eagles for 14 seasons.
The Bears announcement of Trestman as their new bench boss was actually tweeted out by former Dallas Cowboys coach, and current FOX analyst Jimmy Johnson last week. But the Bears decided to interview more candidates, before deciding on Trestman. There is no doubting of Trestman’s credentials. For the last five seasons, the 57-year-old Minneapolis native was the head coach of the Montreal Alouettes, leading them to 2 Grey Cup victories. The Alouettes are arguably the flagship franchise of the CFL, and Trestman has played a large part in their success.
Before that, Trestman was the offensive coordinator at North Carolina State for 2 years, and has worked in the NFL for Miami, Arizona, Oakland, Detroit, San Francisco, Minnesota, Cleveland and Tampa Bay. During his tenure with San Francisco, Trestman was the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach. Steve Young thought very highly of Trestman during this time and it is reported that Young recommended the Bears to hire him. Jerry Rice is a big fan of Trestman as well. Rice was instrumental in getting Trestman the offensive coordinator job in Oakland when Rice was playing with the Raiders. It was Trestman’s offence, that led the Raiders to a Super Bowl appearance in the 2002 season. Trestman has also worked with the likes of Bernie Kosar, Rich Gannon and Tim Tebow. There is no denying of Trestman’s credentials.
Still, there are questions being asked. Can Trestman handle the change from 3 down football in the CFL, to 4 down football of the NFL? That shouldn’t be a problem. Trestman has plenty of NFL experience and knows the NFL game well. In fact, with NFL teams opting for the passing game over the running game, Trestman should make that adjustment rather easily.
The bigger issue might be the pressure that is coaching for a big market team like the Chicago Bears. While the CFL has enjoyed greater media coverage in Canada over the last ten years, it pales in comparison to the coverage the NFL receives in the United States. The citizens of the Windy City are desperate for a Super Bowl victory, something they haven’t seen since the memorable 1985 season. The Bears also have a loyal national following, so networks such as ESPN are all over them like a blanket. How Trestman handles the constant pressure from the national media and the second largest market in the NFL will tell the future of the Bears fortunes.
The last question for Trestman will be how does he handle Jay Cutler? While Cutler has put up some impressive numbers for the Bears, his performances in big games has been mediocre at best. Worse yet, Cutler’s attitude leaves a lot to be desired. After Lovie Smith was fired, Cutler was labelled as a coach killer as stories were rampant between an apparent rift between coach and quarterback. Trestman does have terrific experience in working with quarterbacks. He has even worked with Cutler, prior to Cutler being drafted by the Denver Broncos in 2006. But this will be much different. I’m not sure if Cutler gets it. He’d better, or he, Trestman and the Bears will be in big trouble.
Chip Kelly goes to Philadelphia, after 4 seasons as head coach of the University of Oregon. During his tenure at Eugene, Kelly compiled a 46-7 record with 3 conference titles and one BCS Championship game appearance. Kelly is known as an offensive genius as his Ducks were consistently one of the highest scoring teams in the nation. Called unconventional and stubborn by some observers, Kelly used elaborate schemes and trick plays to great success. But that was at the college level. What about the NFL?
There have been many college coaches who arrive with great fanfare in the NFL, only to go bust in a short time. Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban, Bud Wilkinson, Lou Holtz, Bobby Petrino, and Barry Switzer all came in with huge hype surrounding them. All of them were failures in the NFL. Yet there have been college coaches who succeeded in the NFL. Jimmy Johnson, Tom Coughlin, Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh all have made the transition from college to the pros very successfully.
Kelly’s offence will take some time to learn. The Eagles will need to be prepared to be hit with some unusual formations and looks. Some critics call it gimmicky and that it won’t work in the NFL. Kelly isn’t afraid to go for it on fourth down in his own territory, or draw up fake punts and fake field goals. He’s not afraid to go against the grain which will rile up the establishment of the NFL.
Personally, I hope Kelly succeeds. He will bring a breath of fresh air to the usually staid NFL. I hope he doesn’t listen to the naysayers that will tell him to coach the game the “normal” way. I hope Kelly is successful so he can shake things up a bit. Too many coaches are far too conservative in their approach. (I’m talking to you Gary Kubiak, John Fox, Jeff Fisher and Marvin Lewis.) Kelly will bring an aggressive, go for broke approach that will go either boom or bust.
Philadelphia fans aren’t shy to voice their opinion. They will let Kelly know whether they like his style or won’t. Kelly will learn fast that Philadelphia is much more intense and hard-core than laid back Eugene. How Kelly handles the pressure only Philadelphia fans can bring, will go a long way whether he’s a success or a failure in the NFL.
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