Chicago Bears president and CEO Ted Phillips was so impressed with Marc Trestman that he authorized a middle-of-the-night phone call to offer Trestman the head coach position.
"George McCaskey and I met with Marc on Monday," Phillips said today. "It was obvious that he was the perfect fit for our team. Once the decision was made as the week wore on, we wanted no time wasted before getting in contact with him."
"Arians is an excellent coach and would have been a good choice, but he tends to take over a room," Phillips said. "Darrell was an excellent candidate as well, but wasn't the perfect fit we were looking for. Toward the end of the process, it was down to Bruce and Marc.
"Phil Emery was extremely impressed with Marc and so were we. His intellect, his approach seemed in sync with our goals. We chose the coach we felt would help our team return to championship level as quickly as possible. That man was Marc Trestman."
Trestman comes to the Bears after five years as head coach of the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL, where he helped the team reach the playoffs each year and won two Grey Cups. He was named Coach of the Year in 2009. He'll try to do what few have done before him: successfully transition from the CFL to the NFL.
Does Phillips feel Trestman's lack of recent NFL experience – he hasn't coached in the league since 2004 – will hinder his move into the states?
"Not at all," he said. "The important thing to us is that Marc went into that program and built a championship team almost immediately. He demonstrated those qualities that Phil Emery was looking for in a head coach for the Bears: passion for his job, the ability to organize, skill with players and a love of football. Marc's success in the CFL speaks for itself in that regard."
Phillips said he's received numerous calls from other team executives and coaches lauding the Bears' decision.
"Marc may have been working up north," he said, "but he never cut his contacts south of the border. I've been amazed at the number of calls coming in since this decision was announced. To a man, everyone I've spoken with endorses Marc completely and feels we made the right decision for our team."
Bears president George McCaskey echoed Phillips' enthusiasm over the new hire.
"We're already deep into the learning process. There are some Canadians here today and we're all learning a new definition of the phrase ‘south of the border'," McCaskey said. "I always thought that meant Mexico. Now I know better. What's impressed me today is how much Marc's Montreal staff loves him. I haven't heard anything but the highest praise from anybody Marc has worked with to this point."
McCaskey stressed that Trestman would have free rein to build his coaching staff.
"We are planning to meet with the coaches who are here at Halas Hall right after this conference," said McCaskey. "It will give Marc a chance to evaluate who is in place and understand where he might want to make changes."
During his media conference, Trestman expressed eagerness to work with Jay Cutler, a sentiment endorsed by McCaskey.
"Marc knows our players, knows what he has to work with right now. We discussed this extensively in our interviews with him. He has worked with Jay before and should be very effective in maximizing Jay's potential. He's coached many outstanding quarterbacks in the past and has been very successful with them. In terms of our team and situation, Marc understands the importance of protecting the quarterback and having a strong offensive game plan in place."
Trestman said he will handle the play-calling on offense, on top of his numerous other duties as head coach. McCaskey was asked if he is comfortable with that approach.
"That's correct, he will call the plays. We are fine with that," McCaskey said. "Marc knows the game inside out and has a proven record of success."
One subject that did not come up during the lengthy morning session with reporters was the traditional call to beat Green Bay. McCaskey was asked if the omission had particular significance.
"Not at all," he said. "What it stresses is that we are competing against every division rival, not just the Packers. Our goal is to reach the Super Bowl as quickly as possible. To do that we need to be in the playoffs. You get there by beating all of your division opponents, not just one of them. Marc feels very strongly about this. Ted, Phil and I certainly agree with him on that."
In Phillips' view, turning the page on the coaching situation will re-energize the team and its fan base.
"We want them to be involved, to be excited about what is going on here," Phillips said. "We want Chicago to respect this team and to be proud of what they accomplish. We are completely confident that Phil has done his due diligence and brought in the very best man for this coaching job. Marc Trestman loves football. He understands the traditions here and respects them. He's a leader of men who will maximize the potential of every player on this team. It's going to be an exciting time for us and for the fans."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.