This week, Chicago Bears GM Phil Emery introduced Marc Trestman as the 14th head coach in franchise history. Emery, in his first ever head coach hire, selected a man who has never before been a head coach in the NFL.
With both men new to this process, the future is certainly nebulous at the point, causing much trepidation amongst Bears fans. To ease concerns, both Emery and Trestman went into great detail outlining a roadmap by which to bring Chicago its first Super Bowl championship in more than 27 years.
In essence, the two men laid a foundation for how this team is going to function at every level. Let's take a look at what the future of the Bears will look like.
Cutler the crux
Don't kid yourself, Emery's decision to hire Marc Trestman had everything to do with quarterback Jay Cutler. All three finalists for the position – Trestman, Bruce Arians and Darrell Bevell – have extensive histories in the league developing quarterbacks. In fact, every offensive coordinator interviewed, eight in all, had experience working with some of the best signal callers in the league.
Emery sees what we all see in Cutler: a passer with immense talent who has yet to reach his potential. In Denver, under Mike Shanahan, Cutler was on the doorstep of becoming a special quarterback. Shanahan, one of the best offensive minds in the game, had the experience and know-how to get the best out of Cutler, turning him into a Pro Bowl quarterback in just three seasons.
Since Shanahan was fired in Denver in 2008, though, Cutler has strayed off the path to greatness. In four seasons with the Bears, he has yet to play at the level at which most believe he's capable. With the hiring of Trestman, Emery is obviously trying to find his own Shanahan.
"The quarterback is a central position on the franchise, for any franchise in the NFL or any football team, so that connection is very important," said Emery. "Certainly we talked about that. Marc's experience as a play caller, a successful play caller, but more importantly a successful head coach, was the determining factor."
In today's NFL, teams have to score in the playoffs to win. A strong defense will help but the days of defenses carrying clubs to championships are over. You can win in the regular season with defense but you must have offense to win in the postseason. Building a high-scoring team in Chicago will depend greatly on Trestman's ability to clean up Cutler and turn him back into the Pro Bowler he was in 2008.
"The No. 1 marriage in all of sports is the marriage between a quarterback and his coach. That's it. It starts there and then everything proceeds from that," Trestman said. "There's got to be a connection and there's got to be an element of trust, professional trust, that you have to have. We don't have that yet, certainly, but … we got started in the right place. He loves football and I love football. We're going to have two passionate guys in the room trying to win football games for the Chicago Bears. That's a pretty good start."
That relationship should develop quickly, as the two will soon by joined by the hip.
"I'll be in with the quarterback coach and the coordinator, in the quarterback meetings, on the field," said Trestman. "We're going to go hip to hip with the quarterback, and so there will be an involvement. It will be an involvement that will be intense, but that won't limit my job. I still have to maintain and know what's going on and connect our defense and our special teams as well, and there will be time to do that. I've experienced that up in Canada."
Cutler's biggest flaw, arguably, is his inconsistency, which is rooted in his lack of fundamentals. His footwork has always been sloppy and he far too often throws off his back foot, leading to passes that sail dangerously high. Trestman's first job will be to break Cutler down and re-teach him the techniques of a successful NFL quarterback.
"Part of the [upcoming] calendar is getting together with Jay, taking it play by play throughout the season and evaluating his performance in different ways – on a macro level and on a micro level," Trestman said. "There are things that he does that he wants to improve on and we want him to improve on – at the micro level, from taking a snap, to dropping back and throwing the football, to everything in between. It's a meticulous process. That's the way we're going to start.
"Whether it's an 8-year-old starting football or a 28-year-old who played eight or 10 years in the National Football League. I had a 41-year-old quarterback this year. Every first day of training camp is: this is a football. And the fundamentals and techniques are the most important thing to helping our football team win.
"The quarterback's got a big job: he's got to protect the ball. He's got to live for the next play. He does it in a number of different ways: at the snap, in the running game, in the confines of the pocket, locating the ball, and outside the pocket. And there's fundamentals and skills and techniques you've got to have to do that. And we're going to start at Day 1 to try to get that done.
"I can't wait to get my hands on him and go to work with him. I think he's ready."
Keys to the car
As offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers in 1995-1996, Trestman coached Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young – who said this week he believes Trestman can take Cutler to the next level.
Young also talked about the play-calling process in San Francisco. On most plays, Trestman would give Young three plays to call in the huddle. When the offense got to the line of scrimmage, it was up to the quarterback to decide which play to run. In this way, Young was able to read the defense before making the play call. According to Trestman, it will be a similar process on the field for Cutler.
"The quarterback is going to have the keys to the car," said Trestman. "He's going to have the keys to the car because he's in the best situation before the snap of the ball to get us in the best play. That's certainly part of football. It'll be part of football here. It's part of football throughout our league."
Under former OC Mike Martz, Cutler wasn't allowed to call audibles, which many believe stunted his progression as an in-game field general.
"Jay is not is not a first-year player coming in. He's an experienced NFL quarterback, and a very intelligent one at that," Trestman said. "There's times where we'll allow him to do that because it's in the best interest of the offense and the team to do it. There's other plays we don't want him to but we're certainly … going to put him in a position to make sure that he's protecting the football while running the play."
How many times over the past four seasons have we seen Cutler call a timeout early in the half, then whip his helmet off in frustration before berating the coaching staff? It's as common in Bears games as the obligatory J'Marcus Webb false start.
Under both Martz and Mike Tice, the play calling was a two-step process by which the quarterbacks coach relayed the call from coordinator to Cutler. That, more than anything else, has been the core root for countless wasted timeouts. Under Trestman, who will call plays from the sidelines directly into Cutler's ear, that problem should disappear.
"I will be calling the plays," said Trestman. "I will be working with [offensive coordinator] Aaron [Kromer] and our staff, in a cooperative manner, during the week so there is accountability and empowerment with our coaching staff, so that we're all prepared to play this game on the offensive side. As we will on defense and special teams as well. But the ultimate buck passes through my shoulders. I will be calling the plays to Jay in the headsets each and every day. That's the way it's done."
There is some concern about a first-time NFL head coach, who has been out of the league since 2004, being able to both call plays and manage the game. Much of that anxiety likely stems from nine seasons under Lovie Smith, a coach who did not call plays yet still struggled with game management.
"Over the five years that I was in Canada, I worked this way. I've experienced this. I don't see a difference in the process," Trestman said. "The fact of the matter is I love calling plays. I love ball and I want to be hands on and coach football. Because I get to stand in these shoes, as long as Phil lets me and ownership lets me, I get to do that. I'm going to do that only if it's in the best interest of the team. It's been in the best interest of the team the last five years in Montreal. If it's in the best interest of the team, that's what I believe I will start off doing. If that changes, I'll let you know."
Without protection, it's all moot
For three years now, Chicago's offensive line has been cause for most of the team's issues on offense. The front five has struggled to protect Cutler and has not been consistent in the run game. Emery made no effort to improve the unit, personnel-wise, last offseason, believing the return of Gabe Carimi and Chris Williams would be enough to buoy the unit into serviceability.
That did not come to fruition.
Carimi struggled mightily and was benched by midseason, while Williams was outright cut from the team in mid October. The numerous issues along the offensive line – which included the season-ending injury to guard Lance Louis – resulted in the team starting seven different front-five combinations during 2012.
If the problems up front aren't corrected, fixing Cutler and the passing game won't mean a lick.
"We're going to work in the classroom and on the field to protect the quarterback," Trestman said. "We've got to protect our quarterback, and we've got to keep him safe. We've got to take care of that precious football."
Trestman admitted he wasn't up to date with the personnel on the current roster and was unable to speak specifically about his plan for the offensive line. Yet he did express confidence in the team's new offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Aaron Kromer.
"I haven't spent any time sizing up the line but I've spent 11 years sizing up Aaron Kromer," said Trestman. "I had the privilege of coaching with him in Oakland and evolving there. I've watched him grow as a football coach, not only as a specialist in his area but as a complete coach and person. He's evolved. Things happen fast and fluidly in the National Football League and the help of our organization to be able to accomplish this task is going to be tremendously important as we move along."
After firing Lovie Smith, Emery spoke about the need to improve in the area of protection. I asked him why he felt Kromer was the right guy to help create consistent, clean pockets for Cutler.
"Aaron has an unparalleled level of record of success. If you take a look at the last few years, I believe New Orleans [Saints] was third this year, third best in the NFL and second the year before, in terms of sacks allowed," Emery said. "One thing that I looked at all the candidates for offensive coordinators: what was their record over the last four or five years in terms of what I would call ‘sack control?'
"Marc, during his time in the NFL and his teams and the systems that he's come out of, and Aaron, have been excellent in that area. It tells me they know a lot about protection because you've got a wide variety of players at all levels in different years. They must know a whole lot about, not only protection, but in terms of design of routes and placement in formations to get the ball out quicker so you cut down on the number of sacks regardless of the type of personnel that you have."
Two peas in a pod
Bruce Arians, who yesterday accepted the head coach job with the Arizona Cardinals, made a strong push on Tuesday for the same position in Chicago. Arians has a stronger resume than Trestman and has worked nowhere but the NFL since 1998.
Yet, despite Arians' qualifications and his strong desire for the job, Emery still chose to go with Trestman. President Ted Phillips said it came down to finding the right fit, personality wise, for the team.
"Arians is an excellent coach and would have been a good choice, but he tends to take over a room," Phillips said. "Phil Emery was extremely impressed with Marc and so were we. His intellect, his approach seemed in sync with our goals."
Emery and Trestman have more in common, though, than just goals.
"Our birthdays fall one day short of each other, which is also a connection," Emery said.
Yet the biggest similarity between Emery and Trestman is their organized, meticulous approach to their jobs. In his search for the next head coach of the Bears, Emery interviewed at least 14 candidates, which for NFL coaching searches is almost unheard of. He left no stone unturned, interviewing offensive coordinators, defensive coordinators and special teams coordinators, and eventually landing on a coach from the CFL.
During the process, Emery was touted by those he spoke with as one of the most detailed general managers in the game. He's a person who has every angled covered at every time and is always thinking five steps ahead.
Apparently, Trestman has that same structured personality.
"All football coaches attack details. My experience with Marc, he's extremely detail-oriented," Emery said. "I'll give you an example in terms of how detail-oriented he is. He presented me a calendar that was a 13-month calendar. So where does that take you to? From the time of the interview to where?"
From the time of their initial interview, 13 months leads right up to the Super Bowl.
"Every day accounted was for, every time slot accounted for, every meeting accounted for," said Emery. "And not only that but 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 the league. He knew all of parameters of the CBA and had already laid it out in calendar form with the understanding of the rules that are very difficult. That gives you an example of who Marc is in terms of his organizational skills and attention to detail."
What it came down to in considering three similar finalists for the position, is that Trestman – in terms of personality, philosophy and attention to detail – is nearly a mirror image of Emery. That should create a productive working relationship between the two.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.