MORRISSEY: After Lovie era, Marc Trestman is freshness guaranteed for Bears
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org January 19, 2013 1:20AM
Marc Trestman speaks after being introduced as the new head coach of the Chicago Bears at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Ill., on Thursday, January 17, 2013. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 21, 2013 6:37AM
Trestman. Sounds a little like ‘‘Trust me,’’ doesn’t it?
That was Lovie Smith’s advice to Bears fans in 2007 after he fired successful defensive coordinator Ron Rivera and replaced him with a pal. ‘‘Trust me’’ became implicit in almost every non-answer he gave: Trust me to do the right thing, to make the right move, to win a Super Bowl.
I’ll take my chances with new Bears coach Marc Trestman. Trust me on this one.
These are heady times in Chicago, thanks to the breath of fresh air blowing in from Canada, of all places. Trestman is known as an offensive guru, and if he strikes you as a bit too nerdy to be an NFL head coach, it could be much, much worse. The last coach was so wooden you could learn his age by cutting him down and counting the rings.
Will we kid Trestman about his professorial demeanor? You bet. And we’ll make fun of his tenure as coach of the Montreal Alouettes (literally, ‘‘Alou family groupies’’). But for now, the benefit of the doubt goes to a man who helped Bernie Kosar, Steve Young, Rich Gannon, Scott Mitchell and Jake Plummer become better quarterbacks.
There’s a very real sense that if Trestman can’t make Jay Cutler better, nobody can. In his introductory news conference last week, he called football a science. Maybe a mad scientist/coach is what Cutler needs. The massage artist/coach didn’t work out so well.
Concerns? Yeah, a few. General manager Phil Emery had Cutler meet with each of the three finalists for the job and told him what criteria he should look for while talking with them. If you’re a candidate and you’re being interviewed, in effect, by one of your potential employees, what are you supposed to think? That Cutler is running things.
Emery loves thoroughness. Most NFL people do. They meet. They study. They pore over data looking for answers. And then they do it over again. But the message to coaching candidate and quarterback here is that the quarterback has power. This one hasn’t earned it yet — not even close. We’ll find out soon enough if my concern rates as a quibble.
Trestman sounds like a guy who demands perfection. It doesn’t mean he has the leadership skills to make the pursuit of perfection happen; those skills will emerge eventually, if they’re there. But here’s hoping he can get Cutler out of the lazy throwing mechanics and cut down on the penalties by the offensive line.
The word ‘‘hope’’ is big. It’s what I took away from Thursday’s news conference. New doesn’t always mean improved, but in this case, it feels like it. Here is a man who is very comfortable in his skin and who can’t wait to prove what he is made of at 57. Could be a powerful combination.
What the Bears have gotten is a guy who, for whatever reason, was passed over again and again for NFL head-coaching jobs. There’s clearly a lot of football wisdom in that head of his. For years, quarterbacks have come to him for advice. Other coaches have studied his work. We’re going to find out if he can apply all of his knowledge to an NFL team.
What kind of offense will he run? How will he make Cutler better? How complicated will his offense be? The particulars will come later.
For now, we’ll have to be satisfied with broad strokes and first impressions. Emery has to get the offensive line right. That should have been done last year, and no 15-minute ‘‘Moneyball’’ monologue from him on the 2012 O-line can convince me otherwise. But I feel much better knowing that whoever is on the line in 2013 will be in better hands with Trestman.
Too much optimism? Probably. He’s not going to make the blind see. Guide dogs will always find employment at Halas Hall. But if this isn’t the time for optimism with the Bears, I don’t know when is.
I might have preferred Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, whom the Cardinals hired as head coach last week, or a bigger name like Jon Gruden, but it’s hard to find fault with Emery’s search. For years, many of us have been screaming about the lack of attention given to the offensive side of the ball, only to be tut-tutted by Smith.
If the Bears are going to go down, they’re going to go down with a 21st-century offense. No more getting off the buggy running. It’s about time.