CHICAGO -- For the Chicago Bears, the present is finally here, if not the future. It's refreshing and a little scary to know that in hours or days, the Bears will have a new coach.
Unless they McGinnis the operation, but that's doubtful. This is the George McCaskey era, the Phil Emery era. Things get accomplished in a timely manner.
Goodbye to 60 years of darkness, John Shoop, Terry Shea and the like. Open up the curtains at Halas Hall and let in the light.
The long, laborious list of candidates for the open head-coaching position on Football Drive has been reportedly winnowed to three, give or take a mystery candidate lurking on the gravel road outside the Walter Payton Center. All three are offensive-minded guys, proving the conventional wisdom correct.
Much has been made about the brave, new world of George Halas' old club capitulating to the reality and looking for a coach with a passing game, while awestruck reporters and fans marvel at Emery's business-like, if not longwinded, approach. A man like Emery doesn't need a search firm. He is the search firm.
I have no doubt that the three amigos, Marc Trestman, Bruce Arians and Darrell Bevell, could each help fulfill Jay Cutler's promise better than anyone Lovie Smith could have picked. For all his many talents, Smith couldn't figure out how to lead a competent offense. He didn't get it. That's why he was fired.
After all, in 2004, he hired Terry Shea to be offensive coordinator, with Trestman, a couple of years off a Super Bowl run as offensive coordinator of the Raiders, as a backup choice.
The 2009 trade for Cutler turned out to be the end of Angelo and Smith's tenure. That's why some people refer to Cutler as a coach killer. But really, Cutler probably delayed the Turk's visit for a couple of years. As an NFC North scout said to me this year, "Without Cutler, what do they have out there?" Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte, but after that, nothing.
If all goes well, Cutler will have one fewer excuse for not being the franchise quarterback we envisioned. Of course, the only coach I'm 100 percent positive could reach Cutler is Tom Thibodeau.
Knowing what we know about the candidates, which is always tricky unless you've covered them, my favorite is Trestman, who was famously given Jimmy Johnson's congratulations in a tweet last week. Maybe Johnson wasn't premature. The 57-year-old endured the grinder's lifestyle as an assistant coach in the NFL to get here -- eight NFL teams, nine if you count his second stint with the Vikings, from 1985 to 2004 -- a stint at North Carolina State and his current gig as head coach for the Canadian Football League Montreal Alouettes.
Save the "Kids in the Hall" jokes. He's the real deal. Ask Steve Young. Trestman coached him in 1995-96 -- the latter year, Bill Walsh was brought in as a consultant -- and Young raves about the bespectacled Trestman, noting on the "Waddle & Silvy" show on ESPN 1000 that if Cutler is willing, "you could make some good music."
"Marc Trestman is not just an offensive coordinator," Young said. "He's a head coach."
Some have focused on his last five years as head man in Montreal, and that reminds of the local opposition to John Groce at Illinois. Groce wasn't a Mid-American Conference coach, as some billed him; he was a Big Ten assistant who bused through the MAC to be a head coach for a few years.
Trestman is an NFL guy and, by all accounts, a gifted offensive mind and the kind of teacher that might correct Cutler's faults. He will hire guys like himself, Young said, and give the team the innovative offense it has lacked. You figure he might keep Rod Marinelli, still under contract, as the defensive coordinator. That would be the smart move, reminiscent of Mike Tomlin keeping Dick LeBeau in Pittsburgh.
I'm sure Emery sees the coach as a kindred spirit, a guy that's smart, organized and largely overlooked in the celebrity culture of the league. Trestman, who would likely use some kind of Walsh-influenced offense, had his brief bouts with public relevance as offensive coordinator -- two years with San Francisco before George Seifert was axed, some time in Arizona and a solid run in Oakland with a Super Bowl appearance.
Trestman, who went to law school and wrote about a book about perseverance, went back to coach in college after the 2004 season, looking for stability for his two daughters, according to a 2010 Montreal Gazette story, before a coaching change pushed him toward Montreal. Two Grey Cups later and here we are.
"We plan, and the universe changes," Trestman told the Gazette.
Then there's Arians, who gained deserved acclaim for taking over for Chuck Pagano and leading the dark-horse Indianapolis Colts to the playoffs. Arians, 60, is familiar to me, the Steelers fan. He went from receivers coach to offensive coordinator, winning two Super Bowls in the process in Pittsburgh.
He was let go by the Steelers, unceremoniously, when his contract was up. Receiver Hines Ward, who praised Arians recently to a local reporter, said on NBC this fall: "Sometimes I think when you get so close, partiality sets it, and you don't know if Bruce Arians is doing what's best for the Steelers or if he's doing what's best for Ben Roethlisberger."
Somewhere Cutler is saying, "Hire this man!" Arians' play calling could be maddening at times, but he is fresh and creative. His players, for the most part, liked him very much.
Like Trestman, he's another guy who has paid his dues in the league -- an Emery kind of guy.
Bevell, at 43, would seem to be more of a long-term fit. But who looks for continuity in this league? Smith's nine years were an eternity. As a quarterbacks coach and an offensive coordinator in Green Bay, Minnesota and Seattle, Bevell has worked with the best, Brett Favre, and the, um, less-best, Tarvaris Jackson. His work with Russell Wilson this season provided more evidence there can be a new NFL reality of mobile, option quarterbacks.
All of these coaches would do what Emery wants, what we all want: modernize the offense and take advantage of Cutler, Marshall and Forte. Find a way to get the offense in sync, even if the offensive line problems persist.
The elephant in the room is Smith. He had a hold over this team. Players never brought up his shortcomings, on the record, because he was clearly the boss. There are plenty of good assistants, bright minds and effective teachers who just can't lead a disparate group of NFL players.
We'll see if one of Emery's choices can be the coach the Bears have lacked while also being the coach the Bears had.