GM Phil Emery began with 13 candidates to replace Lovie Smith as the next head coach of the Chicago Bears. He has reportedly whittled down his search to three finalists: Bruce Arians, Marc Trestman and Darrell Bevell.
All three have interviewed with Emery already. Trestman spent all day yesterday, and part of Sunday, at Halas Hall, presumably meeting with team president Ted Phillips and chairman George McCaskey. Bevell and Arians will undergo second interviews this week.
It's no surprise that all three candidates are offensive-minded coaches. Emery realizes that in today's NFL, offense wins championships. Don't believe me? Just look at this past weekend's divisional games, which was the highest scoring divisional round in NFL history. The four games combined for a total of 276 points, with all eight teams scoring 28 points or more, breaking the old mark of 266 combined points set in 1995.
In fact, of the four highest divisional point totals in league history, three have come within the past four years. In essence, if you can't score in this league, you're not going to the Promised Land. Just ask Lovie Smith.
Trestman is currently the head coach of the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League. His first coaching experience came as QB coach at the Univeristy of Miami from 1981-1984. Over the next 20 years, he made coaching stops with eight different NFL teams, as either quarterback coach, offensive coordinator or both.
From 2005-2006, Trestman was OC at North Carolina State after turning down an offer to become the offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints under Sean Payton. Trestman was then named head coach of the Alouettes in 2008, a post he has held since. He was named 2009 CFL Coach of the Year and won the Grey Cup – the CFL's Super Bowl – in 2009 and 2010. His CFL regular season coaching record is 59-31.
Trestman was a candidate for the Bears offensive coordinator position in 2004, before Lovie Smith hired Terry Shea. In 1994, Trestman was also a candidate to replace Lou Holtz at Notre Dame, a job that ultimately went to Bob Davie. Additionally, Trestman was considered for the head coach gig at the University of Miami last year, which was awarded to Al Golden. He also visited with the Cleveland Browns last week for their vacant HC job, which went to Rob Chudzinski.
The previous knock on Trestman in the NFL was that he didn't have the demeanor to be a head coach; that he's too much of a nice guy. With his success in the CFL, he has proven some doubters wrong. He turns 57 today and is believed to be a strong favorite for the job.
Bevell is currently offensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, a post he has held since last year. Before that, he was OC for the Minnesota Vikings and QB coach for the Green Bay Packers. He coached for four years at the collegiate level early in his career.
Bevell has been praised for his work with Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson this season, building a read-option offense that played to the QB's strengths. Bevell has spent considerable time in his career coaching future Hall of Famer Brett Favre, both in Green Bay and Minnesota. His second interview will be conducted today. He is 43 years old.
Arians' coaching career began in 1975 as a graduate assistant at Virginia Tech, his alma mater. He spent 23 years bouncing between the professional and collegiate ranks before landing in Indianapolis as quarterbacks coach for the Colts and their first round rookie, Peyton Manning.
Arians moved on to become offensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns from 2001-2003, then wide receivers coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers (2004-2006) before being named OC from 2007-2011, helping guide the team to a Super Bowl victory in 2008.
Yet this past season might have been Arians' best work. As offensive coordinator for the Colts, Arians had to step into the interim head coach position after Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with Leukemia. Arians worked magic with rookie QB Andrew Luck and brought the team, which won two games the previous season, to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth.
Considering his work with Manning, Luck and Ben Roethlisberger, Arians could be the right person to reign in Bears QB Jay Cutler. One source I spoke with said Arians has a strong personality, which could either alienate Cutler or turn him into an MVP. Arians is 60.
So who is the best fit out of these three candidates?
This is very easy: Arians. He has experience with some of the game's elite quarterbacks and has championship credentials. His work with the Colts this season was nothing short of miraculous. His tough-nosed coaching style would be just what Cutler – who has been coddled his entire career – needs.
His age is a concern but many head coaches work well into their 60s – Tom Coughlin of the Giants is 66. Arians brings the experience and offensive knowledge Chicago needs.
Yet that may not be enough, as it appears Emery is strongly leaning toward Trestman. Jimmy Johnson, FOX TV analyst and former NFL head coach, said last week Trestman will get the job. His information came from somewhere and hey may have been right.
For those concerned about the Bears hiring a CFL coach, there is some positive news I can offer. One source I spoke with said Trestman turned the Alouettes into the New England Patriots of the CFL. He said Trestman is one of the smartest offensive minds in the game, in any league.
The one major concern with Trestman is his ability to get out of Cutler his full potential. With Cutler's abrasive attitude, a disciplinarian may be what he needs. Trestman does no have that type of personality.
Yet Steve Young, who spoke on EXPN 1000 this morning, said that shouldn't be a concern.
"One thing [Trestman] can do is break down the QB and build him back up," said Young.
No matter his personality, if he can develop an offense that can keep pace with the Packers and Patriots, Cutler, as well as the rest of Chicago, will be very happy with Trestman's hire.
Stay tuned. I fully expect the Bears to make an announcement within the next couple of days, even as early as today.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.