MONTREAL — Marc Trestman’s Jan. 16 announcement that he was leaving to become head coach of the Chicago Bears after five years helming the Montreal Alouettes didn’t exactly take sports pundits by surprise.
They all knew that Trestman, whose contract with the Als expired after last season, was itching to get back to the National Football League (NFL) as a first-time head coach, even if he was always too characteristically circumspect to say so publicly.
They also seemed to agree that Trestman’s departure would leave a void that could prove challenging to fill, even if the team stayed competitive with stalwarts such as veteran quarterback Anthony Calvillo, pro football’s all-time leading passer.
“The Als should remain competitive without Trestman,” commented sportswriter Herb Zurkowsky of the Gazette.
Trestman, 57, a native Minnesotan, was the second Jewish coach to oversee the Als, after Marv Levy in the 1970s. (Hall-of-famer Levy also went on to be a head coach in the NFL, with Kansas City and Buffalo.) Trestman becomes the NFL’s only Jewish head coach in his new role with the Bears.
He boasted an enviable record with the Als after coming on board in 2007.
It included a total win-loss regular season record of 59 wins and 31 losses, four East Division championships (2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012), and three Grey Cup appearances, with victories in 2009 and 2010 and a loss in 2008. In 2010, Trestman was named CFL coach of the year.
The Grey Cup win in 2009 over the Saskatchewan Roughriders was especially memorable, when the Alouettes came back from 16 points down with 11 minutes to play and then prevailed by one point with a field goal and no time left on the clock.
At the time, Trestman was his usual low-key self, telling The CJN that a “little bit of luck” helped his team come through in the clutch.
Last week when The CJN tried to reach Trestman at two different cellphone numbers, an automated voice reported that both his mailboxes were full.
Speaking to Canadian journalists one day after his announcement, Trestman said his new job would not have been possible without the Als.
“I’m filled with an incredible amount of humility today,” he told reporters. “This [new position] is an incredible opportunity.”
He succeeds Lovie Smith, who was with the Bears for nine years. The team is considered one of the most storied franchises in the NFL. It had a 10-6 record last season, but missed the playoffs for the fifth time in the last six seasons.
Trestman is considered an expert in honing the skills of quarterbacks and has said he’s eager to help starter Jay Cutler and the underperforming Bears offence improve over its showing this past season, when it ranked 16th in points and 28th in total yards out of 32 teams..
Trestman previously served as assistant coach with a number of NFL teams, including the Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions, Arizona Cardinals, Oakland Raiders, and Miami Dolphins.
When not occupied with his duties as a coach, Trestman resides in North Carolina.