The Chicago Bears invited former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon to Halas Hall today. He spent the entire day with the team and was on the sidelines during the final practice of veteran minicamp.
Gannon was league MVP in 2002 when he helped guide the Oakland Raiders to Super Bowl XXXVI. Marc Trestman was the offensive coordinator for the Raiders from 2001-2003 and played a large part in helping Gannon reach his potential.
"Rich is a friend. I've known him since I was in Minnesota in the early ‘90s and obviously had a chance to coach him in Oakland," Trestman said after today's practice. "But [I want] more of his national perspective. He's a guy who gets around a lot of teams. And not to get inside information but just to give us his perspective on the league. I think 10 minutes with the team will help on that count.
"The other [reason for inviting him] is just spending time mostly with our quarterbacks during the day. I've left it up to the quarterbacks to ask Rich the questions about his experiences and his journey, which was a long one and a diverse one.
Gannon, drafted in the fourth round of the 1987 draft, dealt with injuries and inconsistency his first 11 years in the league, playing for the Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins and Kansas City Chiefs. Yet he turned his career around after joining the Raiders in 1999. For the next four seasons, he never threw for less than 24 touchdowns. In his 2002 MVP campaign, he completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 4,689 yards, 26 TDs and 10 INTs, with a passer rating of 97.3.
"He went through a lot of different ups and downs before he elevated himself to where he finished his career," said Trestman. "I thought it would give good perspective and Rich agreed to do it and we're happy to see him here."
In a way, Jay Cutler has followed a path similar to that of Gannon. Entering his eighth season this year, Cutler has yet to reach his immense potential as a quarterback.
"He's a very talented guy. He's played a lot of football," Gannon said. "I was telling Marc, watching Jay throw the ball, that he's got a lot more talent than I've ever had at the position. The big thing is I'm going to try to encourage him, that relationship I think between the play caller and the quarterback is absolutely vital – to get to know Marc and not only that, but to be able to develop some trust.
"It's really important to be able to trust the guy at the other end of it, that he's got your back. But not only that, but that he can trust you in critical situations that you're going to do the right thing. That's going to be really important in terms of how the Bears start the season and how they finish the season, that relationship between Marc and Jay."
Gannon said the relationship between coach and quarterback will be vital if Cutler is to take that next step.
"The big thing that I would encourage the quarterbacks is just get to know Marc on a personal level, on a professional level. Know why he's calling plays in certain situations and the fact he's going to put you in position to be very successful each week. It's really important to Marc and all the quarterbacks, that the trust factor is absolutely vital.
"All the good offenses that you're around and good quarterbacks in the league, they've got that great relationship with the play caller. They trust him to do the right thing for him, and also that Marc would trust Jay that if he calls a play and it's not there, that Jay is not going to force the ball down the field – that Jay's going to do the right thing, check the ball down or throw it away and put the team in a position where they have a chance where it's 2nd-and-10 rather than 2nd-and-18 or a turnover. That's a big thing to be able have to that trust and confidence in one another."
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.