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Trestman presents unknown variable for Bengals in opener

Season openers always present somewhat of a challenge of the unknown, but that will be especially true for the Cincinnati Bengals when they kick things off Sunday in Chicago against a team they haven’t faced in four years and a head coach who will be making his NFL debut.

Marc Trestman comes to Chicago after spending the last five seasons as a head coach in the Canadian Football League, where he led the Montreal Alouettes to back-to-back Grey Cup championships in 2009-10.

“The play calling is a little different up there in the CFL with the extra passing and only three downs,” said Bengals wide receiver Andrew Hawkins, who played for Trestman on both of those Montreal championship teams.

“But he’s not going to try to do anything outside of what his realm is,” Hawkins added. “It will be a lot of short passes to set up for the big plays. He’s really methodical with his play-calling. He would always say every day ‘you can’t go broke taking a profit. If the checkdown is there, take it.’ A 4-yard pass is as good as a 5-yard run. That’s his philosophy.”

In the preseason, the Bears ran the ball 113 times and threw 113 passes.

Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler said that while Trestman’s offense is different, there is somewhat of a familiar feel.

“It’s kind of West Coast-based,” Cutler said. “It’s some of the stuff that I did in Denver. It just takes time. You’re in one offense long enough, you’re going to get good at it.”

Prior to going to the CFL, Trestman spent 16 seasons in the NFL as a quarterbacks coach/offensive coordinator with eight teams, including Cleveland.

“As I came into the NFL back in 1992, he was held in high regard at every position he had in the NFL as being an exceptional coach and an exceptional teacher,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “His style, his handling, is very West Coast-ish. That’s how he’s been as a coordinator in the league and as a position coach, quarterback coach and different things. He’s been around the NFL during his time.

“They’ve played four preseason games,” Lewis continued. “You can’t go out and play in the preseason and then unfold another offense the first weekend. If that doesn’t go well, I don’t think you stay very long.”

In addition to his time in the CFL and as an assistant in the NFL, Trestman also worked on the collegiate level as a young assistant at the University of Miami (1981-84) and later as offensive coordinator at North Carolina State (2005-06).

But he said his goal has always been to become a head coach in the NFL.

“I always had a dream that it would come somehow,” he said. “When I went up to Canada for five years, I never focused on becoming an NFL head coach. I loved coaching up there. We had a great locker room, and I still had the chance to raise my daughters and spend the offseason in Raleigh, (N.C.). I never thought it would come to this, but I did dream it would happen if I stayed focused. I’m certainly grateful.”

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