Bears coach Marc Trestman has made fast turnarounds a habit
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org January 19, 2013 1:22AM
Marc Trestman took the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes from worst to first in sacks allowed and penalties in his first season with them in 2008. | Jim Prisching~AP
Updated: February 21, 2013 6:51AM
It wasn’t a big surprise that Marc Trestman was ready for the moment — clear, precise and on point from start to finish as he read off notes on index cards during his introductory news conference Thursday at Halas Hall. The Bears’ new coach is famously detailed and well-prepared.
‘‘I call him Coach Cerebral,’’ said former North Carolina State coach Chuck Amato, who hired Trestman as his offensive coordinator in 2005. ‘‘When he sent me his résumé, it was like a book. It must have been 30 pages.’’
Every new coach has big ideas when he comes in, and Trestman is no different. He wants his coaches to be great teachers who care about their players. He wants players who care about each other.
‘‘We’ve got to play tough, physical football. Disciplined football,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘Because in this league, you’ve got great coaches and great players in 31 other cities.’’
And every one of them has the same grand ideas as Trestman — to not only win, but win the right way. Competing in practice. With attention to detail. Making the most of his talent.
The only question is, how is he going to do it? The previous coaches paid attention to detail. They drilled the fundamental concepts of the offense and defense into the players. They were teachers who cared about their players, too. Yet, the first offensive play of nearly every game in the first month of the season was a sack or a fumble or a drop or some kind of negative play. The Bears had 25 false-start penalties in 2012, tied for the fifth-most in the NFL. They had 30 holding penalties, tied for the second-most.
They were ready for everything, too.
‘‘We’re going to make sure we’re not embarrassing anybody or hurting our quarterback,’’ offensive coordinator Mike Tice said last August. ‘‘We’re going to have schemes where if we have a guy that we’re not matching up well against, we’re going to make sure that guy has two guys on him throughout the game.’’
But just as Mike Martz’s offense was going to maximize Jay Cutler by putting defenses on their heels with multiple formations in 2010 and 2011, and just as Gary Crowton’s offense was going to create mismatches that would expose defenses’ weaknesses two coaching staffs ago, the best-laid plans of Tice and the offensive coaching staff quickly fizzled in 2012.
While Tice was a first-time play-caller and offensive coordinator, Martz was a meticulous, detailed and professorial genius with a Super Bowl ring. So how is Marc Trestman going to be different? Is there something about his approach to instilling discipline that resonates better than the others’?
Apparently, there is. Trestman has a history of first-year success in his career. His team made the playoffs in his first year as a coordinator with the Cleveland Browns (1989), San Francisco 49ers (1995), Detroit Lions (1997), Arizona Cardinals (1998 — their first playoff appearance in 16 years) and Oakland Raiders (2001).
But the best example was as coach of the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes. Trestman not only took an 8-10 team and went 11-7 and reached the Grey Cup in 2008, but he improved the team in two key areas that unquestionably relate to coaching. Under Trestman, the Alouettes improved from a CFL-worst 68 sacks allowed to a CFL-best 22 with the same offensive line. They also improved from 195 penalties in 2007 (second-most in the CFL) to a league-low 124 in 2008.
‘‘I’ve been around coaches who are smart, who are players’ coaches, and we’ve won many different ways,’’ said Anthony Calvillo, who played 14 years in the CFL before Trestman arrived. ‘‘But one thing that Marc brings is the details. He made sure that everybody was on the same page for us to have the best success. And that was pretty much throughout the whole team — defense and special teams.
‘‘We walk through every single play before we even practice it, to make sure that everybody knows what they’re doing. And as we get closer to the game, there aren’t many mistakes.’’
Calvillo won a Grey Cup and a CFL Most Outstanding Player Award in his first 14 seasons. He won two Grey Cups and two league MVPs in his first three years with Trestman. The little things made a difference in the CFL, he said. In Trestman’s first season, he would scold players he caught mugging for TV cameras on the sidelines after a big play.
‘‘His whole thing was, ‘We’re going to dominate, but we’re going to respect the game and be humble about it,’ ’’ Calvillo said. ‘‘It didn’t happen overnight. Those guys still had to be reprimanded. But overall, guys finally bought into it. There’s a discipline aspect that he brings, and it just grew over time as people started to understand what he was trying to do for our football team.’’
Best of all, Calvillo said, is that Trestman’s lessons made the biggest difference when it mattered most.
‘‘We had other coaches where we won one [Grey Cup], but we lost so many other ones,’’ Calvillo said. ‘‘Marc’s whole thing was, we’re going to work very hard to get to this game. But he wanted to make sure we were very relaxed and had the best opportunity to win a championship. Guys knew they [couldn’t] goof around and be an idiot. They respected the game and bought in to what Trestman was doing.”