By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) When his reputation as a quarterback whisperer came up in a recent interview, Bears head coach Marc Trestman swatted it away like a defensive lineman.
“I don’t even look at myself as any kind of quarterback specialist. I’ve been really fortunate to be around some really good quarterbacks who probably taught me more about the game than I taught them.”
I appreciate Trestman’s humility, but Bears fans hope – and know – that’s not the case.
Being an inquisitive chap, I wondered: why have people labeled him a whisperer? So, I quantified the influence Trestman’s had on quarterbacks during his transient career as a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator by comparing the statistics most correlated with wins the year before Trestman arrived and his first year on the job.
The results were mixed.
Good result: most saw an increase in quarterback rating. Bad result: all saw a decrease in touchdown percentage. And slightly above average results: there was a near split in both adjusted net yards per attempt and completion percentage. Surprisingly, the most talented quarterback Trestman worked with – Steve Young – got worse in every major category.
But if you dig a little deeper into the stats of the Lovie Smith-era, you’ll see that it shouldn’t take a whisperer, savant, sage, or even a guru to improve the Bears offense.
In Lovie’s time in Chicago, the Bears offense enjoyed the best average starting field position in the NFL. Curious about the validity of the average starting field position statistic? Four of the next nine teams on the list have won six of the last nine Super Bowls. It matters.
Additionally, the ball-hawking philosophy Lovie engrained generated the most turnovers in the league. The next two teams on the list are the New York Giants and New England Patriots. Coincidentally, those teams have represented their conference in the Super Bowl more than any other over the same time span.
So, thanks to the most opportunistic defense in the league and the Devin Hester-effect, the Bears offense operated with a shorter field more frequently than the rest of the league, yet scored the third least points and fifth least touchdowns per drive.
Thus, the Bears offense has consistently done less with more.
Casting statistics and labels aside for a moment, Trestman’s objective is simple: coordinate an offense that puts the available talent in the best position to make plays. Don’t be what the previous three coordinators were: dated (Turner), stubborn (Martz), and unimaginative (Tice).
Ideally, Trestman will install a respectable NFL offense while the Bears bleed another year of Super Bowl-caliber production out of their defense and special teams.
When questioned about his decision to hire Trestman, general manager Phil Emery noted Trestman’s competitiveness and the critical importance of the relationship between the head coach and quarterback.
Obviously, the Bears need more consistency from quarterback Jay Cutler. But laying blame for the Bears perennial plight on offense solely at the feet – more appropriately arm and brain – of Cutler is imprudent. Undoubtedly, Cutler’s mechanics and decision making have occasionally trumped issues with personnel and play calling, but he’s been the getaway driver in this crime against NFL offense.
Entering a contract year, it’s safe to assume Cutler and his agent are paying close attention to the dollars being doled out to quarterbacks across the league. Money is a motivating factor for professional athletes – and most people for that matter – so he’s incentivized to be open to what he’s being taught.
A quarterback whisperer and a coach killer? Label me intrigued.
You can follow Dan on Twitter: @djdurkin.