For­mer Als’ coach Trest­man now work­ing magic with Bears’ Cut­ler

SundayXtra - - SPORTS NFL - By David Haugh

DUR­ING meet­ings in 1975 in­side the Bier­man Build­ing on the Univer­sity of Min­nesota cam­pus, Golden Go­pher quar­ter­backs Tony Dungy and Marc Trest­man hung on of­fen­sive co- or­di­na­tor Tom Moore’s ev­ery word.

Dungy was the es­tab­lished starter who led the Big Ten in sev­eral pass­ing cat­e­gories that sea­son but Trest­man, his backup, pre­pared men­tally like a guy ex­pect­ing to take ev­ery snap. The football gospel ac­cord­ing to Moore re­volved around the idea — in­no­va­tive at the time — of call­ing four plays in the hud­dle and run­ning the one the de­fence dic­tated.

“Marc was a good stu­dent of Tom Moore and soaked up ev­ery­thing,” Dungy said Fri­day in an in­ter­view. “He loved it. You could see he was pretty driven.”

Trest­man closely fol­lowed the ex­am­ple of Dungy, his room­mate for Min­nesota road games. In Trest­man’s book Per­se­ver­ance he de­scribed Dungy as a “gym rat” whose quiet con­fi­dence com­ple­mented an un­canny work ethic. Coaches trusted Dungy with keys to the football of­fice. Moore, who later be­came one of the bright­est NFL of­fen­sive minds of his gen­er­a­tion, used to show up for work at 6: 30 a. m. to find Dungy wait­ing to watch film be­fore class — lead­er­ship that res­onated with younger team­mates like Trest­man. A last­ing im­pres­sion formed.

On the day the Bears hired Trest­man last Jan­uary, he ref­er­enced those days with­out get­ting spe­cific.

“The No. 1 mar­riage in sports is the mar­riage be­tween the quar­ter­back and the coach,” Trest­man said. “Ev­ery­thing pro­ceeds from there.”

Ex­am­ples in Trest­man’s cir­cuitous ca­reer first came to mind; his rap­port with Bernie Kosar in Mi­ami or Rich Gan­non in Oakland or Scott Mitchell in Detroit or An­thony Calvillo in Mon­treal. But the phi­los­o­phy on quar­ter­backs Trest­man brought to Chicago took root as a Min­nesota sopho­more ob­serv­ing the com­pat­i­bil­ity be­tween Moore and Dungy dur­ing the 1975- 76 sea­sons. Dungy later pro­vided more proof by beat­ing the Bears in Su­per Bowl XLI thanks to the part­ner­ship of Moore, his Colts of­fen­sive co- or­di­na­tor, and quar­ter­back Pey­ton Man­ning.

As the Bears ven­ture to­day into Heinz Field, Dungy knows how much Trest­man still lives by that coach­ing credo af­ter watch­ing Jay Cut­ler stage two straight fourth- quar­ter ral­lies. Dungy didn’t need to hear Trest­man brag about Cut­ler be­ing the first player to Halas Hall and the last to leave as ev­i­dence of the quar­ter­back em­brac­ing the new regime. He could see signs of what would be one of the Bears’ big­gest break­throughs since the T- for­ma­tion.

The way Cut­ler and Trest­man have clicked rep­re­sents the way Steel­ers quar­ter­back Ben Roeth­lis­berger and of­fen­sive co- or­di­na­tor Todd Ha­ley hope to, a con­trast that makes the na­tion­ally tele­vised matchup even more com­pelling.

“Jay al­ways was tal­ented but the sense I got was he al­ways thought he had to do ev­ery­thing for his team to win,” said Dungy, now an NBC Sports an­a­lyst. “What I’m see­ing is a guy real­iz­ing he doesn’t.”

If Trest­man keeps con­nect­ing well enough that Cut­ler ac­cepts some­times less is more, he will suc­ceed where pre­vi­ous Bears coaches failed. A close friend of Lovie Smith, Dungy re­al­izes Cut­ler’s his­tory but his knowl­edge of Trest­man’s past makes him op­ti­mistic change in Cut­ler can last.

The for­mer col­lege team­mates re­con­nected af­ter years of ca­sual ex­changes af­ter the Colts’ Su­per Bowl in 2007 when Trest­man faced a well- doc­u­mented ca­reer cri­sis. So much had changed since their younger days when the two in­tro­spec­tive souls fi­nally caught up but, re­gard­less of where they were in their re­spec­tive lives, they quickly found com­mon ground.

“We talked about how to pro­ceed, about let­ting the Lord di­rect things and not worry about what hap­pens and do what’s best for your fam­ily,” Dungy said. “At one point he ac­cepted maybe be­ing an NFL head coach isn’t go­ing to hap­pen and, if it didn’t, he wasn’t go­ing to be a wreck. That’s the peace of mind Marc achieved.”

The seren­ity Dungy senses in his friend oc­ca­sion­ally gets in­ter­preted as stand­off­ish­ness, cre­at­ing a per­cep­tion Trest­man could strug­gle com­mand­ing a locker- room. Asked about those po­ten­tial dif­fi­cul­ties, Dungy re­called be­ing a 49ers de­fen­sive back for a pro­fes­so­rial first­time NFL head coach in 1979.

“I re­mem­ber peo­ple say­ing the same thing about Bill Walsh,” Dungy said. “The same ques­tion was asked about Lovie and will be asked about any coach who isn’t nec­es­sar­ily what peo­ple think he’s sup­posed to be. Football play­ers want to be good and will re­spond to that more than any­thing. I don’t think it’s as big a chal­lenge as peo­ple think.”

It poses the kind of chal­lenge Trest­man and Dungy, both 57, once only dreamed of con­quer­ing as NFL coaches.

For Trest­man, it con­tin­ues to open doors full of pos­si­bil­ity.

— Chicago Tri­bune


Chicago Bears’ Marc Trest­man ( right) is off to a win­ning start in his first NFL head- coach­ing gig. The usu­ally hum­ble Bears are 2- 0 af­ter Week 2.

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