Marc Trestman says he’ll spend more time in defensive meetings
BY PATRICK FINLEY Staff Reporter August 31, 2014 8:37PM
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Updated: September 1, 2014 8:07PM
He jokes with the defensive players that they see the world upside down.
When Bears coach Marc Trestman walks into a defensive meeting, the X’s and O’s are inverted.
When offensive coaches draw up plays, their unit is on the bottom. Defensive coaches put the offense on top.
There’s more than just a clerical difference, too, and Trestman knows it.
“I think that when you’re on different sides of the ball, you do see the world a little bit different,” he said.
That’s why Trestman — who begins his second season at the Bears’ helm Sunday against the Buffalo Bills at Soldier Field — decided to spend more time in defensive meetings.
“Letting the players know that I’m there to support them,” he said. “For me, that means a lot of different things — from spending time in the meeting room with the coaches, just checking in with them, giving them a perspective, to being in defensive meetings.
“I’ve moved around defensive meetings during training camp and will during the season, just to let the guys know I’m as interested in both sides of the ball.”
Trestman is clear: He was last year, too.
He was hired not only to bring the Bears’ offense into the 21st century — only the Broncos averaged more than their 27.8 points — but to lead the players on offense, defense and special teams.
In February, after the Bears had set franchise worsts for points allowed and yards allowed, Trestman stated what was considered to be obvious: As coach, he held himself “completely responsible for what happened to our football team defensively.”
That has manifested itself visibly in defensive meetings. And players have noticed.
“He’s a coach that cares a great deal about his team, his players,” veteran defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff said. “When he comes in to check on us, it’s respected.”
Entering Year 2, Trestman is noticed more in public — “You could feel the passion that those people we’ve touched have for the team,” he said — but he blushes at the notion that he’s famous.
“It’s not anything glamorous,” he said.
He comes home from work, walks his dogs and spends time with his wife, Cindy, or, if they’re around, his daughters Sarahanne and Chloe.
Then it’s back to Halas Hall, where he has felt comfortable since Day 1.
“We all know each other better,” he said. “As a result, we’re closer.”
Everything was new last year, from the schedule to terminology to the way coaches communicated with players.
“Whether he was saying the same thing as the last coach — or the last coach I worked with — he was saying it differently,” offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. “He was saying it his way. And that’s what Marc’s done a great job of, being himself.”
Trestman wants players and coaches to care about each other, Kromer said. When the Miami Dolphins’ bullying scandal surfaced last season, players and coaches were praised for a Halas Hall environment that featured anything but.
“He’s an extremely positive coach,” Ratliff said. “He puts trust in his players, and that same thing is reciprocated.”
Defensive tackle Stephen Paea said Trestman prioritizes detail. In the preseason finale Thursday night, he scribbled like mad while watching fourth-stringers in the fourth quarter.
That’s why one of Trestman’s tenets might sound surprising.
“I want the guys to have fun,” Trestman said. “I think a sense of humor is really a part of what good organizations have. They have fun, but they know when to have fun and when to work.
“I think there’s a place to be silly. A sense of humor and silliness are two different things, but I think there’s a place for both at the right time.”
Paea smiles at the notion.
“In his first year, I knew he was trying to improve everyone,” he said. “He’s talking about having fun in the locker room. A sense of humor — every good team has that.”
That’s why Trestman makes the upside-down joke in defensive meetings. His presence in them is important, but so is the symbolism. He delegates, but he’s present.
“That’s his personality,” Kromer said. “He feels like he can’t say one thing and do another.
“If he’s saying he wants to draw the defense and the offense together so we can be a team, then he needs to be in there. And that’s what he’s done. He’s just doing what he talks about.”
The Bears retained defensive coordinator Mel Tucker — “Moses, teaching us the Ten Commandments,” Paea said — but fired defensive line coach Mike Phair, assistant line coach Michael Sinclair and linebackers coach Tim Tibesar in the offseason.
“Those are the hardest decisions,” Trestman said. “Your families are affected, your children are affected. There’s a reverberation throughout the team because relationships have been built with people.”
New line coach Paul Pasqualoni and linebackers coach Reggie Herring have combined for 75 years of coaching experience, and assistant line coach Clint Hurtt was Louisville’s associate head coach.
“I think the guys we brought in there are certainly extremely experienced,” Trestman said. “At not only working with older veterans but also in training young guys.”
More to come
Laying the groundwork of the Bears’ offense took much of Trestman’s focus in his first year.
His partnership with quarterback Jay Cutler became a rousing success, and the Bears signed Cutler to a seven-year, $126.7 million deal.
Trestman praised his “passion and intellect for the game.” That extends off the field. Trestman called Cutler “bright” and “well-read” and “an expert in a lot of different areas that would surprise people.”
With Cutler, Trestman orchestrated an offense that set franchise records with 6,109 yards, 4,281 passing yards and 32 passing touchdowns last year.
“I believe Marc was brought here to bring an offense up to a high level with the talent that we have,” Kromer said. “And that’s what he’s doing.”
The offense still can improve, Trestman said, though he might as well be speaking about the entire team.
“I don’t think you ever have everything,” he said. “We’re always going to work to get better. There’s always something to work on, to be more consistently excellent at.”