Reporting Adam Hoge
By Adam Hoge-
HALAS HALL (CBS) Throughout the hiring process, Marc Trestman was referred to as a “very detailed” guy.
But even Phil Emery was surprised he was this detailed.
The Bears’ general manager told the candidates he wanted to know exactly what their plan would be if they were named the Bears’ head coach. So what did Trestman do? In his first interview, he presented Emery with a 13-month calendar that ran from the date of the interview all the way to the 2014 Super Bowl.
Or as Trestman later put it: “Up until the parade.”
“He had every day accounted for, every time slot accounted for, every meeting accounted for,” Emery said. “And not only that, he had included the provisions of our CBA in the states, which takes a nuclear scientist to figure out exactly what you can do. He had called so many people — his friends in the league — he knew all the parameters of the CBA and had already laid it out in counter form with the understanding of the rules that are very difficult.”
That certainly gives you an idea of why Emery said multiple times Thursday: “I want to be working towards championships with that individual.”
That detail, along with his head coaching experience, is what made him one of the last two candidates for the job. The three finalists were Trestman, Bruce Arians and Darrell Bevell, but Bevell was ultimately eliminated because he has never been a head coach before.
That left two standing.
So why did Emery go with Trestman? The Bears general manager said that ultimately he went with his gut. And his gut was influenced by Trestman’s “professional and mental toughness to go into some place you’ve never been before and take on the task.” He was talking about Canada of course, where an entirely different brand of football is played. Emery was impressed Trestman was able to hire an entire staff and have “great success” in a foreign league.
Time will tell if that success transcends to the NFL, but the man was in the league for 17 years before he went to Montreal. That’s just one of the reasons for Bears fans to be optimistic.
Let’s break down what you need to know about what we learned at Halas Hall Thursday:
Ability To Adapt
No message was more important Thursday. A big reason why Lovie Smith was fired because he was stubborn to adapt as the NFL changed around him during his nine-year tenure. Well, not only does Trestman adapt from year-to-year, he’s willing to adapt from game-to-game, quarter-to-quarter and even play-to-play.
Trestman doesn’t fit personnel into a scheme. He fits scheme to his personnel. Emery specifically told a story about how this past season Trestman wasn’t left with much more than three talented tight ends. So what did Trestman do? He found a way to best utilize those tight ends to have offensive success.
In an ever changing league where you have to not only keep up with the times but be one step ahead, Trestman is going to give the Bears a chance to innovate and succeed.
Not A Complete Departure From Lovie
While Trestman’s offensive values are sure to change the franchise, his overall philosophy is similar to Lovie Smith’s in a few ways.
For one, Trestman preached the value of takeaways, saying his team has to “do everything we can to go get that precious ball.”
He also emphasized the importance of special teams and winning the battle of field position. The hiring of Joe DeCamillis (who was also a candidate for the Bears’ head coaching job) as special teams coordinator should help the Bears stay competitive on special teams.
Those were the two areas Smith had success, so if Trestman can maintain some of that success while improving the offense, the Bears will be in good shape moving forward.
Relationship With Cutler
According to Trestman, his relationship with Cutler apparently goes back to a meeting he had with the quarterback 10 years ago in a hotel room in Raleigh. The guess here is that his timing is a little off and it wasn’t actually 10 years ago. He was the offensive coordinator at North Carolina State from 2005-06, the same time frame in which Cutler was preparing for the 2006 NFL Draft. It’s been documented that Trestman worked with Cutler before the draft and that’s probably when that meeting occurred.
The point is, the two have a history together and Trestman was brought in because of his ability to work with quarterbacks.
After the press conference, Emery talked about how Mike Singletary actually interviewed very well. He said Singletary was very detailed and will make a good head coach eventually, but ultimately he told Mike the Bears needed to go with someone who could connect with the quarterback.
That’s very telling in what Emery was truly looking for during the search process. He said he interviewed five special teams coaches and Singletary was obviously a defensive coach, but the majority of candidates were offensive coaches and Trestman stood out because of his history — specifically with Cutler.
Emery called Cutler a franchise quarterback after Lovie Smith was fired, but when asked the same question Thursday, Trestman didn’t say yes.
“Jay Cutler is a guy who loves football,” he replied.
Yes, yes he is.
So is it a problem that Trestman is not willing to call Cutler a franchise quarterback?
“That’s OK,” Emery said, adding that Trestman hasn’t had an opportunity to work with and evaluate Cutler yet.
And in Trestman’s defense, he repeatedly refused to talk about his personnel Thursday, dodging questions about Brian Urlacher, Matt Forte and the offensive line.
Who Will Call Plays?
Trestman will call the plays. Aaron Kromer was hired from New Orleans to be the offensive coordinator, but he was the offensive line coach with the Saints and it’s clear he was hired for his work with the linemen. Emery specifically praised both Trestman and Kromer for their work in cutting down sacks.
So Kromer is the offensive coordinator, but Trestman will be the one calling the plays. He did it that way in Montreal for five years and doesn’t see a problem with it. And yes, Cutler will be able to audible.
“The quarterback has the keys to the car,” Trestman said.
As for the rest of the coaching staff, Trestman said some members of his Montreal coaching staff would join him in Chicago and reports say it will be Alouettes special teams coordinator/running backs coach Andy Bischoff and offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Pat Meyer, although it’s unclear what roles they will have.
Why Did Trestman End Up In Montreal?
Fair or not, some question the decision to hire a CFL coach. So why did Trestman end up in Montreal in the first place and why was he there for so long?
The obvious reason is that it was an opportunity to be a head coach, but there’s more to it. After years of bouncing around in the NFL, Trestman wanted his daughters to be able to stay at the same school. So when he took the offensive coordinator job at North Carolina State he made a proclamation to his family that they would not move again.
Two years later he was fired. Trestman said he was prepared to be done with football. He found ways to bring in income, even writing for Sports Illustrated. Then Montreal Alouettes general manager Jim Popp called.
One of the differences in the CFL is that it’s not a 12-month job. Popp told Trestman he didn’t have to stay in Montreal during the offseason. Thus, his daughters stayed in school in Raleigh, his wife commuted and at the end of each season, Trestman got in the car and drove back to North Carolina.
After five years, with his daughters both out of high school now, Phil Emery offered him the Bears job.
Sometimes, it’s all about timing.
Jimmy Johnson Tweet
While you might be thinking Jimmy Johnson broke the Trestman hire on Twitter a week ago, it turns out he probably just got lucky. Phil Emery insists the decision wasn’t made until late Tuesday night and, get this: Trestman said he hadn’t talked to Johnson in 10 years.
The two coached together at the University of Miami in the 1980s, but there wasn’t much contact after that. So the Johnson tweet obviously caught Trestman off guard. But as he put it, he turned adversity into success. Trestman reconnected with Johnson after the tweet last week and was invited to visit him in Florida.
What Happened With Marinelli?
The bottom line is that it was Rod Marinelli’s decision to leave the Bears. Trestman said he wanted Marinelli to stay, but ultimately Marinelli wanted to go in a different direction.
Perception Emery Was Stealing Info
There were reports during the coaching search that other teams around the league were concerned Emery’s thorough search was just a ploy to gather as much information on other teams as he possibly could.
Emery downplayed that notion though, repeatedly saying he was more concerned with the plan each coach had rather than their playbook. He specifically mentioned how DeCamillis came in ready to share notes on his iPad, but Emery slowed him down and wanted to talk more about his background. Of course, DeCamillis ended up on the staff too.
Working Relationship With Emery
One of the reasons why any general manager would love Trestman is because he seems perfectly content staying out of personnel decisions.
“I trust the personnel department,” Trestman said, admitting that there is no way he could possibly know what the scouts know when they spend their whole year studying personnel.
Trestman praised the Bears’ scouting department, something Emery has overhauled since he became the general manager a year ago.
So don’t expect many arguments about personnel in the coming years. Trestman seems content letting Emery do his job and Emery seems content letting Trestman do his.
No Proclamations, Just Visions
Trestman may have walked into his first interview with a 13-month calendar leading “up until the parade”, but he insists he is not one to make proclamations. He just has visions.
He’s not guaranteeing anything, Chicago, but Trestman does have a plan. He has a plan with Jay Cutler and he has a plan to win the Super Bowl.
For what it’s worth, he certainly won his first day on the job.
Adam is the Sports Editor for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.