By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) So the Bears are like magical moths, now, or something?
“We’re a part of something bigger than ourselves,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said, enjoying the chance afforded by the suspension of tight end Martellus Bennett to indulge his desire to wax philosophical. “That’s a transformational process. It doesn’t take one week, it doesn’t take one month. It may not take a year. It may take more.”
As an e-mailer to the Boers and Bernstein Show asked yesterday, “Is Trestman coaching football or training monks?”
I know this is part of the deal with Trestman, as we figured out shortly after he took this job. He’s just an odd bird: on one hand a practical, law-school-trained mind who approaches tactical strategy with a detached sense of logical analysis, and on the other something of a hippie spiritualist – a true believer in the applied value of new-agey ideas to the workplace.
That this workplace happens to be a patch of grass on which massive angry animals are paid to rip each others’ arms off is what makes this interesting.
Bennett is one of these mercenary millionaire beasts, but his behavior ran afoul of the law of Trestman’s land and earned him temporary banishment. As if reading from his own book, Trestman explained his expectations.
“The overriding philosophy is to get to know each other, to develop levels of trust between each other – coaches and players, players and coaches – and to define our behavior through respect and humility,” he said yesterday. “We’re going to respect everybody around us. We’re going to treat them in high regard, and we’re going to understand what humility means.”
With all due respect to those lovely ideas, I would like the Bears to define their behavior through not again having the NFL’s 30th-ranked defense in both yards and points allowed. But I’m silly that way.
There’s nothing wrong with being nice to each other, of course, but this isn’t some binary world in which anything short of corporate team-building retreats of rope courses, trust-falls and walking on hot coals must somehow result in a locker room full of Richie Incognitos. Once that ball is in the air, it’s still about smashing people so hard they spit blood.
From all accounts, newcomer Lamarr Houston has already been involved in multiple on-field shoving matches and scuffles with Bears teammates, playing each rep to the echo of the whistle in a way that flares tempers. I have no idea how that relates to respect and humility or the giant oneness that binds all living things, and I’m confident in thinking that he doesn’t, either. He’s trying to destroy the quarterback.
And this quarterback is at the center of the Trestman-as-guru narrative. Jay Cutler continues to have preconceived stories projected upon him, as he has learned to sprinkle enough buzzwords into his typically blasé comments to play along. He’s the same guy with the same skills, albeit older and wealthier. There are some who can’t wait to lap up the gooey story of his rebirth under new mystical guidance, but the rest of us understand what it means to finally have satisfactory pass-blocking and a pair of All-Pro wide receivers built like NBA small forwards.
Trestman could write the book he did because he won titles in Canada. After he hoists those Grey Cups, he can package whatever philosophy he wants and is free to run his training camp as whatever kind of kibbutz compound he desires.
All those cultural concepts of supernatural metamorphosis were put in place last year, and the Bears were 8-8.
For any precious process to be more than self-indulgent drivel, those numbers have to undergo a transformation.