Marc Trestman has his dream job: The head coach of an iconic NFL franchise.
And he says he owes it all to Montreal Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo.
The Chicago Bears unveiled Trestman as the 14th head coach in club history Thursday, a job he says he wouldn’t have if he hadn’t spent the last five seasons as Montreal’s head coach with Calvillo, pro football’s all-time passing leader, as his quarterback.
“Without Anthony Calvillo, I know absolutely I most certainly would not have been here,” Trestman said during a conference call. “I have no doubt about it.
“I owe him everything and by the grace of God he was able to play and I was able to coach him.”
The Alouettes raised eyebrows in 2008 when they hired Trestman as their head coach. While the 57-year-old American arrived with a impressive coaching resume — 17 seasons as an NFL assistant and time coaching in the NCAA — he was assuming his first head coaching position with no previous CFL experience.
But Trestman did come with a reputation for being an offensive guru and quarterback technician and immediately meshed with Calvillo. Under Trestman, the Alouettes posted a 59-31 regular-season record and appeared in three Grey Cups, winning two. In 2009, Trestman was named the CFL’s coach of the year.
Calvillo flourished under Trestman’s offensive guidance. The 40-year-old Los Angeles native posted consecutive 5,000-yard passing seasons, captured two Grey Cups and two CFL outstanding player awards and was named a league all-star three times.
However, Trestman and Calvillo were more than just coach and quarterback. The two had developed a very close bond and Trestman admitted Thursday to becoming emotional when talking about his former quarterback.
Not surprising, Calvillo was among the first people Trestman contacted after landing the Bears’ job.
“The first person I called besides Bob (Als owner Bob Wetenhall) and Jim (GM Jim Popp) and let the organization know that this was going on was Anthony,” Trestman said. “I’m pretty emotional talking about it frankly because I know he’s the reason why I’m here.
“I called him to thank him for giving me this opportunity. Like the man he is, the man we all want to me, he was excited for me on the phone, he was happy for me and appreciative certainly of what we had been through together. But the decision (to head to Chicago) was certainly one I had to make.”
Trestman has often stated the relationship between a head football coach and his starting quarterback is one of the most unique — and crucial — to success in pro sports. And while he had to establish his relationship with Calvillo from scratch, Trestman arrives in Chicago with a familiarity with Bears starter Jay Cutler and backup Jason Campbell.
Trestman worked with both players in their respective pre-draft preparations. Campbell was a first-round pick of the Washington Redskins in 2005 while Cutler went 11th overall to the Denver Broncos the following year.
Trestman inherits a team that finished 10-6 this season but missed the NFL playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons. His most pressing task would seem to be bringing out the best in Cutler, making him more efficient while improving the protection around him.
Trestman said Thursday he can’t wait to start working with Cutler. And while the former Vanderbilt star is at a different point in his career than Calvillo was when Trestman arrived in Montreal — Cutler turns 30 in April — similarities between the two exist.
“Anthony had played longer but the similarities are that Jay right now . . . feels a little bit of his mortality. He knows time is running out, he knows he hasn’t completely been the best he can be and he’s starting to feel what Anthony Calvillo felt every day for the last five years.
“And that is today is the day I’ve got to be the best quarterback in the CFL and I’m going to do everything I can to be that guy. I think Jay is crossing over to feeling that presence, that sense of urgency that, ‘Man, I’ve got to get this thing going.’”
Trestman has certainly had success in the NFL, helping five teams reach the playoffs while tutoring such star quarterbacks as Steve Young, Rich Gannon and Jake Plummer.
However, foremost for Trestman now is completing his coaching staff, with suggestions Alouettes offensive co-ordinator Pat Meyer and special-teams co-ordinator/assistant head coach Andy Bischoff will be following Trestman to the Windy City. There has also been speculation Toronto Argonauts head coach Scott Milanovich, who was an offensive co-ordinator under Trestman in Montreal, could also be part of Trestman’s Chicago staff although Trestman said all that is talk for now.
But Trestman said he leaves the CFL with a definite appreciation for the Canadian game, the people who make their living in it and the fans who support it.
“The CFL is an amazing league with guys just like the NFL, they love football, they’re smart, they work hard and want to master their craft,” he said. “I’m always going to be a representative of that for anybody who wants to know and will listen.
“When I went up there I didn’t know anything about the league. I left there knowing pretty much everything about the league and its something I will always have been very proud to have been part of and certainly representing the Alouettes and the fanbase of Quebec.”