Chicago Bears GM Phil Emery is a stickler for details. During his career working under Rich McKay and Thomas Dimitroff in Atlanta and Scott Pioli in Kansas City, Emery has always been regarded as a fully prepared front office executive, no matter the position or situation.
Greg Gabriel, Bears director of college scouting from 2001-2009, said this about Emery shortly after he was hired as general manager.
"When I came to Chicago in 2001 I was lucky enough to have Phil work with me as one of my area scouts," Gabriel wrote for the National Football Post. "One thing I learned quickly about him was that he was a tireless worker. He left no stone unturned.
"I found Phil to be the leader of our scouts and he was highly respected by all his associates. He had two different nicknames that I know of, one was he was referred to by the other Bears scouts as ‘Doc.' This name came about because of the attention to detail that Phil paid to every assignment given."
So when Emery began his search this past January to find the franchise's 13th head coach, thoroughness was expected. In that process, Emery interviewed at least 16 different candidates for the position, coaches that spanned the NFL, NCAA and CFL.
He ultimately chose Marc Trestman. Knowing what we know about Emery, the following story, told by Emery the day Trestman was hired, should surprise no one.
"All football coaches attack details. My experience with Marc, he's extremely detail-oriented," said Emery. "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?"
The Super Bowl.
"He had every day accounted for, every time slot accounted for, every meeting accounted for. 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."
Trestman's detail-oriented approach extends beyond the classroom and onto the practice field in a number of ways. The first comes with the tempo of his practices. Former coach Lovie Smith's practices were like a lazy river, each one following the same structured format with little surprise. Trestman's session are more like the chaotic wave pool, where you never know what's coming next and must be ready for anything at all times.
"[The pace] was faster," Jay Cutler said after the first day of voluntary minicamp in April. "We were in and out of the huddle. We tried to create as game-like atmosphere as possible. Ran a lot of plays, in and out. We want to put pressure on guys."
This up-temp style appears out of control, yet what's amazing is that Trestman does not use a whistle or an air horn, two staples of Smith practices. Instead, Trestman has enough control to bark orders to every part of the field, with coaches and players moving the instant he commands.
His practice portions are short and unpredictable. Under Smith, the players warmed up, then went through positional drills, then 7-on-7s and then 11-on-11s to finish it up. Special teams came for 15 minutes in the middle of practice.
Under Trestman, there is no such structure. Any drill can start or end at any moment. Special teams portions come at three or four different points in practice, lasting 5-10 minutes each.
An examples of this controlled chaos: twice during organized team activities, Trestman abruptly yanked the players out of their positional drills and immediately into a two-minute drill. It was a live drill with no huddles and finished with a 35-yard field goal. Once the ball cleared the uprights, Trestman sent everyone back to finish up their positionals.
This practice style accomplishes two things. First, it gets the players and coaches accustomed to the type of chaos they will experience on game days, where everyone must move and communicate under the pressure of a running play clock and amidst the din of the crowd. Second, it helps everyone expect the unexpected and keeps them on their toes. So when the time comes for a fake punt in the third quarter of a divisional game, everyone, both the coaches and the players, will be prepared.
This extends down to a micro level as well. Bill Belichick has often used the term "situational football", where his Patriots practice every potential scenario a team could possibly face throughout the course of a season. It resulted in three Super Bowl championships. Trestman follows that same philosophy.
Three examples outline this point. The first came during an 11-on-11 drill where the offense was backed up to the goal line. After a third-down play was run, special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis quickly shuffled his punt team onto the field, which caught the first-team defense off guard. The D had to stay on the field to return the punt, yet the punt team ran a fake, which resulted in a first down. DeCamillis came charging onto the field screaming, "That just cost us the playoffs!"
Second, during a two-minute drill, the offense quickly lined up on the ball with no huddle following a third-down incompletion. The defense quickly realigned themselves as Cutler went under center for the fourth-down play. He barked three hard counts and then, when no defender jumped offside, he called a timeout.
Finally, during 11-on-11 drills in the red zone, the offense ran the ball up the middle. Matt Forte took the carry and had a clear path to the end zone. Yet at the two-yard line, he slid to the ground, mimicking a scenario in which it would be better for the offense to run the clock out than score a touchdown.
With Trestman, everything is in the details. These examples show a head coach who has thought through every possible in-game scenario. Smith was one of the worst game managers in the NFL. Every Bears fan can recall numerous times in which Lovie made the wrong in-game decision, even though the right move was blatantly obvious to everyone but him. Considering Trestman's preparedness, it would be shocking for that to happen with him in charge.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. 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.