There are plenty of differences between the NFL and the Canadian Football League. In Canada, the field and end zones are bigger, there are 12 players on the field for each team, there is more motion allowed, there are only three downs and so on.
But new Bears head coach Marc Trestman, who coached the Montreal Alouettes to two Grey Cup titles in five seasons, doesn't think it will take him long to re-adjust to the NFL.
"I haven't been in the league for quite a while, but I was in it for 17 years, in a lot of different locker rooms with a lot of different players," Trestman said. "I went up to Canada. I found out that leading those men was no different. They were no different than the guys in the locker rooms down here: hard-working, and wanted coaches to help them get better at their job.
"Over the last few years, I spend each and every offseason down south of the border [in the United States]. The system of football we use [in the CFL] is very similar to what a lot of teams use in this league, and certainly I have identification and connections with coaches down here."
That said, it was Trestman's ability to adjust to the CFL that really impressed Bears general manager Phil Emery.
Montreal general manager Jim Popp, a finalist for the Indianapolis Colts' GM job last season and a candidate for GM openings this year, gave Trestman a chance and that's all he needed. It immediately turned into a success for the Alouettes, who already had a history of it..
The Alouettes, in many ways, are the New England Patriots of the CFL. Players want to play for them, but if they can't, they want to knock them off their perch.
The Alouettes are innovative and aggressive. Their coaches are in high demand around the CFL. Trestman has seen four assistants in Montreal leave to become either head coaches in the CFL or coordinators.
Trestman led the Alouettes to back-to-back Grey Cups in 2009 and 2010 and was named the CFL's Coach of the Year in 2009. Montreal quarterback Anthony Calvillo was named the CFL's MVP in 2008 and 2009. Trestman's regular-season record was 59-31 in five years.
Trestman's success in the CFL really resonated with Emery. Why?
"Because that's so difficult," Emery said. "People don't realize how much mental toughness that takes to walk into a situation where you don't even have a staff. His four original members, two of them are now head coaches in the CFL and two of them are coordinators. I think he's got a pretty good eye and ... he didn't get scared of that process."
Instead, Trestman displayed his coveted ability to adapt immediately.
"He really figured out the subtleties of Canadian football, where you can have movement before the snap," Montreal play-by-play broadcaster Charles-Andre Marchand said. "You know those guys in New York City, who play with the nuts and shells, where you try to figure out where is the nut under the shell. That was basically the offense that Trestman was putting on the field.
"When he arrived five years ago, he was really taking full advantage of the motion prior to the snap that is allowed in the CFL. It became a trend and now everybody is doing it. He was really putting it to the max with complexity. Now, he has to adapt to the NFL rules, which are a bit different. But I think you can envision a strong passing game, especially with the NFL going more aerial than in the past."
Emery said Popp gave him great examples of Trestman's ability to adjust on the fly too.
"One of the best stories I had from Jim Popp, his general manager in Montreal, was people don't realize how good Marc is at this." Emery said. "Last year, they lost their top running back, they lost their top receivers. It came down to the best players on their squad were tight ends, so what did Marc do: He adapted to his circumstances, he put three tight ends in the game and he moved the ball and won games. Not only can he adapt to the personnel, but he can adapt to the situation very easily. He's been in a number of NFL cities, and he's gone up to Canada, and he's always demonstrated excellence. That's a person I want to be in a room with; I want to be on his side."
Trestman was very grateful for the opportunities that Popp and Alouettes owner Bob Wetenhall gave him. He praised Popp as a general manager.
"I thought when I made the move, it was certainly a leap of faith, but I needed to go up there because Jim Popp and Bob Wetenhall gave me the opportunity to be a head football coach," Trestman said. "I needed to hone my skills and get to a point where I felt comfortable in a locker room, which I did initially, and I think I've fulfilled that.
"But while I was up there, my focus was on helping our players be good players and focusing completely on my job and not worry for one minute where it was going to take me."
But it took him right where he wanted to be: the NFL. Emery related to Trestman's journey and valued it.
"I want to thank Montreal Alouettes owner Bob Wetenhall, who saw something in me to up until that time, others had not seen," Trestman said. "And certainly to our brilliant general manager Jim Popp. Our coaches, our players and the incomparable quarterback I had the luxury of coaching the last five years, Anthony Calvillo. He led the way. You are the ones who got me to this moment."