By Adam Hoge-
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (CBS) — After six days in Bourbonnais and four practices in a row, the Bears are getting their first CBA mandated off day Tuesday.
The break gives us a good chance to step back and evaluate what we have seen so far from first-year head coach Marc Trestman, who was pretty much an unknown commodity in Chicago before he was hired in January.
1. He’s on top of everything. It’s not hard to understand why Trestman appealed so much to general manager Phil Emery. When the GM came to Chicago, it was quickly evident that he had an attention to detail that hadn’t been present in the organization for some time. Trestman is the exact same way. He plans almost every single minute of every day, attacks each day with a plan and then executes that plan. From there, it’s up to the players to determine whether or not the team is successful.
During practice, Trestman is mostly concerned with the offense and spends that time barking out instructions and advice on that side of the ball. But from talking to defensive players, it’s clear that after practice, Trestman does his due diligence to stay on top of the defense. It’s mostly up to Mel Tucker to coach that side of the football during practice, and while Trestman will rely on Tucker a lot this season, the head coach gives plenty of input as well.
2. Trestman demands a lot, but is very fair. When the head coach moved practices up to the morning, the idea was to keep his players off their feet as much as possible the rest of the day. That doesn’t mean they aren’t still working though. After their post-practice lunch, Trestman has them in meetings for most of the day and into the evening. And when the season starts, players will be expected to be at Halas Hall by 7:30 a.m. every day.
Basically, these guys are working long, hard days. But isn’t that the way it should be? NFL players get paid a lot of money and they get plenty of time off in the offseason. As soon as the CBA allows, organizations should be asking their players to work as hard as they can so they are ready to compete at their highest level for 16 games each year.
But Trestman understands that doesn’t mean you run them as hard as you can on the field. Instead, he’s minimalizing contact in practice and running their minds as hard as he can in the meeting rooms. He’s trying to overload the players with information to disseminate what they can and cannot do this season. And when the first game-week comes along, he’ll pull back and come up with a game plan he knows the players can execute.
Meanwhile, on the practice field, Trestman is very vocal, constantly pushing the offense to get to the line quickly and get as many plays off as possible. He’s very critical in individual drills, but he’s also not hesitant to compliment players when they succeed.
3. Trestman understands the Bears’ past. He’s clearly done his research and has a good understanding of why the Bears’ offense hasn’t clicked with Jay Cutler in town. This is also a reflection of Emery, who for two offseasons now has done everything in his power to improve the offense. And the biggest move he made was firing the defensive-minded Lovie Smith after a 10-6 season to bring in Trestman.
From Day 1, Trestman knew he had to work with Jay Cutler. He spent a big portion of the offseason focusing on fundamentals with the quarterback, working on his progressions and encouraging him to get the ball out faster. That has continued in training camp.
But just as important is what Trestman is asking the quarterback to do. And from what we’ve seen so far, he’s giving Cutler every opportunity to succeed. Gone are the constant demands for tough 15-plus yard throws. You’ll still see them from time to time, but most of the routes being run in Trestman’s West Coast scheme are short, quick routes, giving Cutler the opportunity for high-percentage completions.
Meanwhile, instead of throwing harder, more complicated plays at the offense in the middle of the season, Trestman is putting it all on the table now. He’s evaluating exactly what the offense can and cannot do and he’s going to be smart about what he actually calls on game days.
He’s also trying to eliminate the problems the Bears have had with getting plays into Cutler’s headset. There will be no middle man. Trestman will be the voice in Cutler’s helmet and you better believe Jay will have the next play in his ear immediately after the last play ended.
4. Trestman is more than just a QB coach. Even though Cutler is probably Trestman’s No. 1 project, he’s still leaving a lot up to quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh. The head coach spends plenty of time with the wide receivers in one-on-drills as well, evaluating them on the spot. At least on the practice field, it appears he is leaving a lot of the individual instruction with the offensive line up to offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer, but Trestman understands the line is what will determine a lot of what he’s able to call, so he’s immersed in the entire offense.
Very little gets past Trestman and it’s obvious he’s not just a quarterbacks coach in over his head trying to lead an NFL team.
5. The weirdness is overblown. Trestman may have a George McFly look to him and use a big vocabulary, but the players seem to understand what he’s talking about and that’s what is important. At first glance, Trestman may not look like a football coach, but when you see him on the field working with the players, it’s obvious he’s been doing this for a long time.
Part of the reason people are thrown off by Trestman is that he’s not Lovie Smith. He might not be giving away any secrets, but he’s actually stringing together meaningful sentences and not trying to mislead the media. And that’s another change Emery has been preaching since the end of last season. He wants the entire organization, not just the head coach, to be more respectful to the media. That has extended throughout the coaching staff.
As you can tell, the initial reviews on Trestman are positive, but it’s still very early. Bears fans should be encouraged by what the new head coach is preaching, but ultimately what matters is wins and losses in the regular season. The true test of coaching comes on game day.
“We got a lot out of the pads today.”
– After three clean practices, the injury bug hit hard Monday.
– Second-year wide receiver Joe Anderson appears to be rising on the depth chart.
– Is there a legitimate competition going on at kicker? No one with the Bears is saying otherwise.
– Rookie Kyle Long is still behind, but catching up quickly. He joined Matt Spiegel and Laurence Holmes Monday.
Off day. The Bears will be back on the practice field Wednesday at 9 a.m.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.