When the Chicago Bears announced their decision to fire their coach of nine seasons, Lovie Smith, on Dec. 31, my friends and I started a new email chain about our beloved Bears discussing who would be Smith’s successor. Names like former Super Bowl-winning coach Bill Cowher and Denver coordinator Mike McCoy came up, but it was all speculation in the days after the announcement of Smith’s firing.
About two weeks later, one of my friends started a new chain: “A Jewish coach?” I opened the email to find a link that casually mentioned the Bears were in talks with Marc Trestman, head coach of the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League, sandwiched in the middle of about eight other possible candidates. Those of us Jews included in the email balked at the idea of the Bears adding one of our own to their list of coaches, let alone a Jewish coach from the laughable CFL. So, it came as something as a double shock this morning when I read that the Bears have indeed hired a Jewish coach whose greatest success has been coaching in the Great White North. “I guess it was either the Jew or the guy named Arians,” one friend emailed in reference to one of the other finalists for the job, Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.
What will Trestman bring to the franchise? The Bears are hoping that the coach will help be the spark that finally ignites the offense, manned by quarterback Jay Cutler, that has had difficulty firing over the last few seasons. Chicago, traditionally one of the best defensive teams in football for decades, has shifted their focus to the offense, with mostly tepid results. Trestman, a graduate of the same Saint Louis Park High School in Minnesota that Al Franken, Thomas Friedman, and the Coen Brothers all attended, is a quarterback’s coach. Besides being the only of the few coaches to win back-to-back league championships, Trestman has worked to help develop NFL quarterbacks Bernie Kosar, Steve Young, Scott Mitchell, Jake Plummer and Rich Gannon as a quarterback coach for various teams. Trestman is also one of the most sought after coaches for top-ranked college quarterbacks preparing for their Pro Day and the NFL Combine.
Trestman’s hiring comes just under a year-and-a-half after another of Chicago’s iconic franchises, the Cubs, hired former Boston Red Sox General Manager, Theo Epstein. The Cubbies hoped Epstein would do for the Cubs what he did for his former team: lift a supposed curse that has doomed the Cubs from winning a World Series since 1908. The Bears, who haven’t won a Super Bowl title since 1985, are now the second Chicago team in under two years to hedge their bets on a Jewish guy to help lead their team to victory.
There is one interesting note to point out: Sid Luckman, the great quarterback who helped revolutionize the modern passing game in the 1940s, played for the Chicago Bears. With Luckman running the offense, the Monsters of the Midway won four NFL championships. So maybe there’s something to be said about the Bears needing a Jew to have a successful quarterback? Maybe this Jewish gamble will be the one to help bring my Bears back to glory.