Rich Gannon: CFL coach Trestman is guy to cure Bears QB Jay Cutler
BY NEIL HAYES Twitter: @bynhayes January 10, 2013 12:10PM
Updated: January 10, 2013 10:19PM
Rich Gannon remembers what it’s like to be in that zone when a quarterback makes virtually every play, and the 2002 NFL MVP is convinced the person who helped him reach that lofty height is the ideal candidate to replace Lovie Smith as Bears coach.
“I’ve experienced it,” Gannon said. “There’s nothing like it. It’s like a pitcher throwing a no-hitter. The strike zone seems twice as big. That’s the beauty of it.”
Gannon isn’t talking about offensive coordinators Bruce Arians, Mike McCoy or Rick Dennison. He’s not even championing Jon Gruden, who resurrected Gannon’s career in Oakland.
Gannon is convinced the perfect person to elevate Jay Cutler’s game to an elite level is Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman. While Trestman’s CFL background has made some question his candidacy, Gannon said he has the qualities to become the next Sean Payton or Mike McCarthy.
“The way he relates to the quarterback,” Gannon said when asked what makes Trestman unique. “Every quarterback who has played for him has gotten better.
“If you ask me if there’s one thing Chicago needs, it’s someone to get Jay Cutler back on track. If you look at [Cutler’s] footwork and ballhandling, he has major issues. Some fundamental things have slipped by the wayside because he hasn’t been coached properly. Marc could come in there and get him straightened out.”
The 49ers led the league in points and passing yards in Trestman’s first season as coordinator in 1995. Jerry Rice set NFL records with 1,848 yards on 122 catches.
The Raiders led the league in total offense and passing yards per game when Trestman was coordinator in 2002, but nobody benefitted more than Gannon, who went from a journeyman to MVP.
Gannon is convinced Trestman can have a similar impact on Cutler.
“[Cutler is] at a pivotal point in his career,” Gannon said. “He has to decide what he wants to become. What are you playing for? What’s your legacy going to be? Is it going to be strong-armed, talented gunslinger who played for a couple of teams and went to a couple of Pro Bowls and made some money? Or does he want to be one of the special ones known for doing something dynamic and unique? That’s what he has to decide. He and the new coach have to decide that together.”
The biggest difference between the Packers and Bears isn’t overall talent but production at quarterback. The success of Super Bowl coaches such as McCarthy in Green Bay and Payton in New Orleans extends beyond their ability to understand concepts, devise protections and exploit opposing defenses.
Both designed systems to accentuate their quarterbacks’ strengths, and they rank among the top play-callers because they view the game through a quarterback’s eyes, which is also Trestman’s specialty.
His offenses are aggressive and wide-open and use short and intermediate passes to set up the run. Gannon called three plays in the huddle, picked one at the line and set records for yards (4,689) and completion percentage (67.6) in 2002.
“You learn about the importance of footwork, decision-making and getting the ball out on time,” Gannon said. “Cutler’s completion percentage would go way up, his interceptions would go down and his efficiency in the red zone and on third down would improve because he’ll have a thorough understanding of what he’s conceptually doing offensively.”
Trestman was the Cardinals’ coordinator in 1998 when they won their first playoff game in 51 years. It all came crashing down in Oakland in 2003 when Gannon missed nine games because of injury and coach Bill Callahan was fired.
Payton hired him as a consultant in 2007. He decided to give the CFL a whirl after Montreal hired him as a “guest” coach during training camp that same year. His teams have won two of three CFL title games.
“His ability to coach the position and call plays and coordinate the whole offense and do that from a head coach’s seat like he did in Canada sets him apart,” Gannon said. “A lot of people can’t balance all that, and he has proved he can do all that at a high level, just like McCarthy and Payton.”