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redeyechicago.com

Emery's bold choice could be inspired -- or disastrous

David Haugh

In the Wake of the News

11:04 AM CST, January 16, 2013

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For a guy who comes across as a button-down football conservative, Bears general manager Phil Emery continues to take bold risks that defined his first year on the job. For such a humble man, Emery sure seems intent on proving he is the smartest guy in the room.

Don’t let the professorial black horn-rimmed glasses fool you. Hiring Marc Trestman out of the CFL to be the Bears’ next head coach follows an eye-opening, against-the-grain pattern that has begun to paint Emery as an NFL front-office free-thinker.

First, last spring Emery traded for a Pro Bowl-caliber wide receiver in Brandon Marshall who had been arrested seven times. Next, Emery drafted a pass-rushing project out of Boise State, Shea McLellin, ahead of some other prospects such as Chandler Jones who have proven to be more NFL-ready. Then he fired Lovie Smith after a 10-6 season that might have been good enough for many GMs to embrace the status quo. Now, in the biggest stunner yet, in the wee hours of Wednesday morning Emery chose a coach who hasn’t called an NFL game in eight years over the likely NFL coach of the year in Bruce Arians.

Intrepid, eh?

Arians spent seven hours at Halas Hall on Tuesday, made a strong impression on Bears management but Emery clearly went with his gut in bucking convention and coming to a conclusion he probably reached during his initial eight-hour interview with Trestman. Emery earned the benefit of the doubt during an impressive 54-minute press conference Jan. 1 at Halas Hall that established trust in his decision-making worth remembering after such an unorthodox hire. Standing at the podium that day Emery repeatedly used the word synergy, so we can assume that he sensed it from Trestman more than Arians, Darrell Bevell or any of the other 10 known candidates he interviewed.

In terms of approach and organizational skills, Emery apparently found his match in Trestman according to glowing testimonials on his behalf. In terms of offensive minds, they come no more creative than Trestman’s based on his resume and reputation. In terms of leadership, Trestman’s experience during a successful stint as the head coach of the Montreal Alouettes convinced Emery that he could command respect in the locker room.

Convincing everybody else might take more time. Natural, valid questions exist even for those of us who have vowed to keep an open mind to the idea of Emery plucking Smith’s replacement out of Canada. If Trestman had such brilliance why has no other NFL team employed him since 2004? Did his reported willingness to keep some of the Bears’ defensive staff in tact -- a cheaper alternative -- make him more attractive than Arians, who planned to bring in his own defensive coaches? Did Trestman appeal more to the McCaskeys because he came across as somebody less likely to make waves than Arians? Is the precision-based West Coast offense for which Trestman is known for a good fit for a quarterback like Jay Cutler who has struggled with accuracy?

Did the Bears really just pass up the chance to hire the likely NFL coach of the year?

Keep in mind that Trestman didn’t just get the job over just Arians and Bevell. He got the job over Arians, Bevell, 10 known candidates and Super Bowl-champion ex-coaches Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden, Brian Billick and Mike Holmgren. He got the job over Nick Saban, Chip Kelly and Brian Kelly. He got the job over every coach the Bears eliminated for whatever reason. The Bears are a charter NFL franchise in the league’s second-largest market and could have hired anybody. They hired the coach of the Montreal Alouettes. They stayed true to their quirky history and hired a head coach with no NFL head-coaching experience.

This might be an inspired choice by Emery. Or it could be a disastrous one. As an NFL head coach, Trestman could be the next Marv Levy -- who successfully transitioned from the CFL by leading the Bills to four Super Bowls. Or he could be the next Scott Linehan, a longtime respected NFL coordinator and offensive whiz who floundered. The only thing we know as of today is that it will be fascinating to follow.

Trestman’s early staff moves -- hiring offensive line coach and coordinator Aaron Kromer from the Saints and special-teams coordinator and assistant head coach Joe DeCamillis from the Cowboys -- bode well for the Bears. The mystery surrounding Trestman only makes a fan base that was eager for change all the more curious. Trestman figures to impress Chicago at Thursday’s introductory press conference as much as Emery did 15 days ago at the podium.

Indeed, the Bears new head coach suddenly will find himself on the spot and facing as much pressure as he ever has faced on the job -- but not nearly as much as the man who hired him.

dhaugh@tribune.com

Twitter @DavidHaugh