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Trestman, Carroll learned valuable lessons from legend Bud Grant

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Updated: March 3, 2014 5:02PM



NEW YORK — His search for peace satiated by a year hunting and fishing, Bud Grant returned to coach the Minnesota Vikings and searched for a couple of young assistants to pair with his old deputies.

‘‘I wanted fresh ideas,’’ Grant told the Sun-Times. ‘‘They weren’t going to learn from me; I’m going to learn from them.’’

The Pro Football Hall of Famer didn’t care as much about X’s and O’s — ‘‘You can buy a book on football,’’ he said — as he did about instincts. He wanted coaches who knew bad from good and how to get from the former to the latter.

Which is how, in 1985, he found 34-year-old Pete Carroll and 29-year-old Marc Trestman.

‘‘Coaches come in all shapes, sizes and forms, you know,’’ said Grant, 86. ‘‘They don’t have to fit into a mold.’’

Carroll, the Seattle Seahawks’ coach, still has his rah-rah energy from USC, snapping his gum and seemingly auditioning for a toothpaste commercial. Trestman, the Bears’ coach, is more bookish and analytical.

The two ‘‘are kinda different,’’ Grant said, ‘‘but they both have the one quality.’’

They have the instinct.

‘‘We both have a tremendous passion for the game, and we express it in our own way,’’ Trestman told the Sun-Times. ‘‘We also have interests in bettering people, the players that we coach, bringing the most out of them.’’

Carroll and Trestman — along with Floyd Reese, who would go on to a 12-year stint as the Tennessee Titans’ general manager — were ‘‘the young bucks on the staff,’’ said Carroll, whose Seahawks will face the Denver Broncos on Sunday in Super Bowl XLVIII.

‘‘It was an amazing time for us as young coaches,’’ he said.

It lasted one season before Grant retired again. Trestman said he admired how Grant balanced being a father, husband and coach.

‘‘We learned a lot,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘It wasn’t just Bud. The staff was unique because they’d raised their kids in Minnesota and been part of the real tradition of the Vikings. A lot of those coaches stayed with them for the term of his coaching.’’

Ten years later, Trestman and Carroll served as the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive and defensive coordinators, respectively, for two seasons.

Carroll and Trestman were neighbors and friends. They logged thousands of miles on airplane flights and talked about science and the supernatural. Carroll described it as ‘‘a fun couple of years’’ with Trestman.

‘‘Pete’s been on a really unique journey himself,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘He’s been through it all, and he’s persevered. He’s a great person, a tremendous football coach. Schematically speaking, he knows all phases of the game, but he’s also a great leader. He’s doing what we all want to do.’’

From Grant, Carroll learned to trust himself. Since his arrival in Seattle, the Seahawks have drafted surprise superstars and signed colossal busts. He has called Grant to talk — about how to play a playoff game in inclement weather and, before the 2012 draft, about whether to select quarterback Russell Wilson. Grant told Carroll about another undersized quarterback, Fran Tarkenton.

‘‘His confidence that he exudes, going with what he believes in his gut, was extraordinary to me,’’ Carroll said of Grant. ‘‘To see the calm and the commitment that he had to do what he felt was right.’’

Carroll said Grant didn’t care what anyone else thought and had the confidence to express that.

‘‘What’s right is what you know is right at the time,’’ Carroll said. ‘‘He talked that way, and he taught me that. He lived that way. That was really what I came out of there with: a greater sense of confidence that I could get this done in time if I could get to what was really important to me. He was marvelous at all that stuff.’’

Grant said experience is what helps coaches’ confidence.

‘‘If you don’t have the experience or haven’t had success, the decisions you felt weren’t good, it’s a little tougher job,’’ he said.

Carroll and Trestman are ‘‘really smart’’ and ‘‘understand how to get their teams in successful situations,’’ said Seahawks linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr., who played for them with the 49ers.

‘‘The personalities may be different, but they really love ball,’’ he said.

A proud 49ers alum, Norton credited the franchise with sprouting the two coaches’ success.

‘‘The 49ers in their heyday were really good,’’ he said. ‘‘They really try to bring that to what they have now. And I’m real excited about Marc, what he’s going to do in Chicago.’’

Carroll said he’s ‘‘so proud’’ of Trestman’s career.

‘‘He did a great job in Canada,’’ Carroll said. ‘‘He did a fantastic job in his first season in Chicago. I think he’s going to be really, really effective there.’’

For his part, Trestman will watch intently Sunday. He appreciates the Broncos’ offense and Wilson’s star turn. Trestman recruited Wilson at North Carolina State, and the two are friends.

‘‘I love Russell Wilson,’’ he said.

But Trestman is most intrigued by Carroll’s Super Bowl berth. He knows the chance it provides his old friend.

‘‘This,’’ Trestman said, ‘‘is Pete’s opportunity.’’

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @patrickfinley



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