COMMENTARY | Marc Trestman has a unique opportunity to knock down barriers between American and Canadian football, while contributing to the National Football League's current offensive revolution.
Coaches plying their trade north of the border in the Canadian Football League should cheer for the Chicago Bears' success under Trestman. The new head coach's innovative playbook is expected to interject life into an offense sorely needing it. If the experiment pays off, it could open a pipeline for more CFL coaches to make the transition.
"Plenty of CFL observers will be following his Chicago tenure closely," Andrew Bucholtz, editor of Yahoo! Sports' CFL blog The 55-Yard Line told me. If Trestman finds NFL success…it would increase the already-growing respect for the CFL game and likely lead to further opportunities for other coaches and players. If Trestman fails, that isn't going to stop NFL teams from looking north of the border, but they may be less interested in CFL coaches."
Chicago brass took an unconventional path in hiring the former Montreal Alouette sideline general. The NFL hasn't completely shunned the CFL when filling coaching vacancies - New York Giant offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride was once an assistant in Ottawa, for example. But general managers and owners have historically been reluctant to turn over their franchises to CFL transplants.
Even with an extensive NFL pedigree that includes coordination of the Oakland Raiders' AFC-winning offense in 2002, Trestman might not have received his current opportunity were it not for recent philosophical shifts around the league.
"The influx of unconventional coaches and ideas in the NFL definitely helped Trestman get a look," Bucholtz said. "For a long while, the NFL believed their brand of football was unique, but there are more similarities between the NFL, NCAA and CFL games than many realize."
Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh came to Seattle and San Francisco from college sidelines. Each experimented with option elements, previously deemed unfit for the speed and violence of the pro game. Both made this season's playoffs, and Harbaugh reached the Super Bowl.
Their success forced front offices to change their perspective. Nowhere is that more evident than in Chicago.
Hard-nosed defense complemented with productive rushing has long defined the Bears organization, from the Monsters of the Midway to the 46 defense of 1985 and into the 21st century. But as stalwarts like Brian Urlacher age, and the tempo NFL offenses employ continues to accelerate, a fresh approach is what Chicago needs.
The three-down possessions and 12 players per side of the CFL are conducive to a pass-oriented attack. Likewise, the NFL has increasingly become a passer's league. In 2004, Trestman's last season in the NFL, 10 teams passed for 3600 yards or more. That number was 16 in 2012, or half the league.
Chicago passed for just 2999 yards to rank a woeful No. 29 in the NFL. But then, the Bears also attempted a modest 485 passes. Most of the teams ranked in the top half of the league were throwing 600-plus times, save Carolina, which employed elements of the unconventional zone-read with Cam Newton.
A more spread-out offense should translate to more options for quarterback Jay Cutler. A collapsing pocket was often a problem for Cutler, but Trestman's philosophy offers faster developing routes. It's a style of play enacted with increased regularity around the college game, and it's what Trestman rode to two Grey Cups in Montreal.
It's also the philosophy that helped Rich Gannon to Most Valuable Player honors in 2002.
"The  Raiders' [offense] was very similar to what Trestman ran in the CFL: pass-heavy, focused on high-percentage pass plays to pave the way for runs and longer passes," Bucholtz said. "It's a scheme that has worked on both sides of the border, and not just under Trestman. What the Packers, Saints, etc. run today has plenty of similarities to his stuff."
If it translates in Chicago, expect an exodus from other innovative minds currently toiling north of the border.
Kyle Kensing is a freelance sports journalist and blogger. He covers the University of Arizona for the Rivals.com network site GoAZCATS.com, and is the founder/managing editor of the college football site SaturdayBlitz.com. Follow Kyle on Twitter @kensing45.
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