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Bears Wed Jan 16 2013
If you're a fan of Aaron Sorkin, Tom Hanks, or Philip Seymour Hoffman, then you'll recognize the following exchange (courtesy of IMDB) from Charlie Wilson's War, where Hoffman (Gust Avrakotos) tries to explain to Hanks (Charlie Wilson) that he needs more money to rebuild infrastructure in Afghanistan to prevent future problems for Americans following the 'covert' war the United States waged against the Soviet Union.
Gust Avrakotos: There's a little boy and on his 14th birthday he gets a horse... and everybody in the village says, "How wonderful. The boy got a horse." And the Zen master says, "We'll see." Two years later, the boy falls off the horse, breaks his leg, and everyone in the village says, "How terrible." And the Zen master says, "We'll see." Then, a war breaks out and all the young men have to go off and fight... except the boy can't cause his leg's all messed up, and everybody in the village says, "How wonderful."
Charlie Wilson: Now the Zen master says, "We'll see."
Most Bears fans were excited that Lovie Smith got fired after failing to make the postseason for the fifth time in six years. My reaction was more tempered. Hiring a head coach in the NFL is the epitome of "one extreme or the other." It only ends two ways. A Super Bowl, or a pink slip.
Getting overly excited or being overly upset about Marc Trestman being hired as the new top dog are complete overreactions. Basic happiness or disappointment over "your guy" getting picked is fine and normal, but it shouldn't be more emotional than that. With none of the Bears' finalists having previous head coaching experience in the NFL (don't bullshit me with Bruce Arians coaching Indianapolis this year, fill-in guys don't have nearly the same responsibilities as the contracted head coach), it's impossible to know what to expect.
The only way to judge a coach is by wins, losses, and rings in the NFL. Vince Lombardi, Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh, Joe Gibbs, and Bill Belichick are great; Brad Childress, Chan Gailey, Tony Sparano and Dave Wannstedt are not. It's that simple.
Savvy NFL fans and insiders lean toward Trestman being a great hire, while others question the signing of a coach from the Canadian Football League. Coaching for the Montreal Alouettes doesn't tell the whole story though. Here's Trestman's history (all stats courtesy of Pro-Football Reference):
1981-84: University of Miami (VC/QB) - Helped Bernie Kosar and the Hurricanes to a National Championship in 1983, and after a second successful collegiate season, Kosar became the number one pick in the NFL draft.
1985-86: Minnesota Vikings (RB) - The team went from the 27th ranked rushing attack in his first season, to the 16th in his second season. Not much can be discerned from this.
1987: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (QB) - Steve DeBerg and Vinny Testaverde had awful seasons on a perennially awful team.
1988/1989: Cleveland Browns (QB/OC) - Made the playoffs both years with Kosar throwing for the second highest yard total of his career, and his final successful season in the NFL.
1990-91: Minnesota Vikings (QB) - In his return to Minnesota, he helped future Pro Bowler Rich Gannon get his feet wet in the NFL, with the passing offense improving from 21st to 11th between his first and second year.
1992-94: Practiced law in Florida - No kidding, he took a couple years away from football to utilize his law degree and spend time with his family.
1995-96: San Francisco 49ers (OC & QB) - Called the plays for the best, and third best offenses in the NFL during his two-year stint, coaching Hall of Famers Steve Young and Jerry Rice, and winning a Super Bowl ring in a record setting game. Young and Rice have vastly different opinions about Trestman.
1997: Detroit Lions (QB) - Coached Scott Mitchell to his second best season as a pro during one of the Lions frequent runs (Barry Sanders pun) to the playoffs in the 90s.
2001-03: Oakland Raiders (QB/OC) - Rejoined Gannon for his three best professional seasons, including being voted first team All-Pro twice. He was a part of the Super Bowl runner-up squad that lost to former coach Jon Gruden, a major Trestman supporter.
2004: Miami Dolphins (AHC) - Assisted Wannstedt (who was fired) and Jim Bates (father of Bears current QB coach Jeremy Bates) during a tumultuous campaign that led to an entirely new staff the following season.
2005-06: North Carolina State (OC) - Coached four different quarterbacks in two years and was a part of the bowl winning team in 2005. The coaches were all fired after an unsuccessful 2006 season.
2008-12: Montreal Alouettes (Head Coach) - Posted a winning record every year, won a pair of Grey Cups (the CFL's Lombardi trophy), and appeared in a third.
As you can see, he's been around the block a time or two. He's the owner of a National Championship ring in the college ranks, a Super Bowl ring and a second appearance in the NFL, along with two championships in Canada and reaching a third title game.
Not mentioned on his wide ranging resumé is his offseason work as a quarterbacks coach - helping countless collegiate quarterbacks prepare for their pro day, the NFL Scouting Combine, and the draft. His been nicknamed "The QB Whisperer" for his ability to relate to any signal caller he works with. It's a list that includes Jay Cutler, who said of his hiring, "He's from the West Coach coaching tree, which I'm familiar with. It's going to be a quarterback-friendly system and I can't wait to get started with him."
So if he has such an impressive resume, why hasn't he been hired before? The three year sabbatical from coaching was probably the largest factor. No GM in the late '90s and early 2000s wanted to hire a head coach that had "quit" football for an extended period of time. It simply wasn't accepted then. He's also known for his highly detailed game planning, which many thought to be over-thinking. In the new era of the NFL, where offenses are the show and a race is on to be ahead of the curve, there's no such thing as over-thinking anymore. It's all about who is smartest, and Trestman fits that bill.
He wowed Bears GM Phil Emery in the meetings they had, and his history with quarterbacks, a vast array of offenses, along with success as a head coach, albeit not in the NFL, put him at the top of the pile.
But this is the NFL. A lot of coaches have impressive resumés, and just as many flame out quicker than a lighter in hurricane. His only job is to win a Super Bowl, but the road to that goes through the brain and arm of Cutler. That's why he was brought in... to get every last bit of production out of a guy nobody is sure can lead a team to the promise land.
Out of the candidates that haven't been a head coach in the NFL, he's the guy that I would've hired based solely on his history. But I'm just a guy, like you, who doesn't have any knowledge of the process outside of what we hear on the radio, see on Twitter, and read in the newspapers.
Did the Bears make the right choice? "We'll see," said the Zen master.