On the Marc?
***This article was written by former sports columnist of the Pioneer Press, Scott Gutmann – his debut on The City of Broad Shoulders***
It took just one swing to learn a lot about Marc Trestman’s golf game at last month’s Encompass Championship in Glenview. The Bears’ new head coach chose to hit an iron off the first tee, a 424-yard par-4, during the Champions Tour pro-am event. Trestman obviously isn’t too fond of his driver, and he later acknowledged that as a golfer he’s a pretty good duffer.
Bears fans hope he’s better as a football coach, but don’t blame them if they’re about as confident in Trestman as he is in his driver. After all, the Bears’ fourteenth head coach in their illustrious history has not worked in the NFL since 2004 and spent the last five years in the Canadian Football League, aka pro football Siberia. And yet somehow, when Bears General Manager Phil Emery seemingly endless parade of candidates finally reached the finish line, it was Marc Trestman who hit the tape first.
Trestman had served as an NFL offensive assistant for seventeen years with nine different organizations. He is credited with helping nurture the likes of quarterbacks Steve Young and Rich Gannon. In 2002 Trestman was the Oakland Raiders’ o-coordinator as they led the NFL in total offense and passing yards per game. Gannon was the league’s MVP and the Raiders made it to Super Bowl XXXVII.
That was then, this is 2013. There are 32 NFL franchises, and for reasons unknown not one chose to employ Marc Trestman the past eight seasons. Not as a head coach. Not as an assistant coach.
Makes one wonder why the hell not.
In his maiden search for a head coach, Emery interviewed no fewer than thirteen candidates. He wanted a coach who would be more media friendly than predecessor Lovie Smith, who seemed to have a genuine disdain for the main conduit between him and the general public. Emery also said he was looking for someone who was very organized, positive and synergistic. Maybe he confused football coach with investment banking COO.
Emery eventually cut his pageant of coaching candidates to three finalists: Trestman, Bruce Arians and Darrell Bevell. Arians merely was 2012 NFL coach of the year in an interim role with the Indianapolis Colts. Bevell’s Seattle Seahawks offense made the Bears look like they were wearing roller skates in a crucial Soldier Field matchup last December.
Why Trestman? Maybe Emery was swayed by the two Grey Cups and 59-31 record in five years of coaching the Montreal Alouettes. He could have liked the fact Trestman didn’t insist on bringing in his own defensive staff as Arians (who eventually landed as the Arizona Cardinals’ boss man) reportedly did. Or perhaps Emery and Trestman hit it off over a steak dinner, boom. (After all, Jim Hendry’s five-star dinner date with Milton Bradley led to a three-year deal for the latter . . . and a death sentence for the 2009 Cubs.)
Or maybe the ultimate reason Emery chose Marc Trestman is he believes Trestman is the man with the brainpower to do what other coaches have not: turn Jay Cutler from a top-15 into a top-5 quarterback. Good luck with that — after seven NFL seasons, Cutler still makes rookie-caliber mistakes. Perhaps Trestman will have the temperament and game plan to succeed where Lovie Smith and his three o-coordinators in the last four years failed.
Lots of questions await Trestman, Emery and the rest of the Bears organization as they approach the 2013 season’s first tee time. Most important: Will Marc Trestman be a capable driver?