Former Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks Mike Holmgren appeared on ESPN 1000's "The Carmen & Jurko Show" on Monday, and discussed some of the challenges Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman is likely facing with his team at 3-5 coming out of the bye week.
Like Holmgren during his coaching days, Trestman utilizes a West Coast attack on offense. Holmgren described how such an attack is built to operate. Yet strangely, that's not what's taken place in Chicago over the first eight games of the season.
"For the offense to work most efficiently… the way it's built is to move the ball around and throw to the open guy," Holmgren said. "So the defense, regardless of the coverage you see, you're gonna have to throw to someone. That's how it's taught. I know that's what Marc believes in, and I know that's the way it is. Now within that framework, if you have a superstar at wide receiver like they have there, like I had with Jerry Rice, you're obligated now to try to get him to be a real active part of this."
That seems to be what's occurred for the Bears with regards to receiver Brandon Marshall.
Although there's the perception Bears quarterback Jay Cutler throws mostly to Marshall, the receiver actually ranks No. 2 behind Matt Forte in terms of balls thrown his way, while also checking in at fourth on the team in receptions (34) behind the running back (58), tight end Martellus Bennett (47), and Alshon Jeffery (38). Trestman has talked about making Marshall more of a focal point in the offense, and Holmgren said he did the same with Rice during his time with the receiver as the offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers.
"So on my sideline sheet, as you well know, I had throws to Rice," Holmgren explained. "I had throws to whoever was our top gun at the time. That's part of calling a good game. Here's what would happen. I'd call the player's number, a pass to Jerry Rice as an example, and the coverage, they doubled him. So I don't want him to throw the ball there. You don't do that. You throw it someplace else. Typically, it worked. But then all of the sudden, that player gets a little frosty. 'I'm not getting my catches.' Jerry, he'd come into my office on a number of occasions on Monday, and say, 'Mike, I'm not getting the ball.' I'd sit down with him and then I'd show how I was calling the game, why I called it, and those things because I needed him to be happy. Then after those meetings, he'd go, 'OK, I get it.' But still, he's proud and he wants to be a part of helping the team win. So you're fighting that little battle, too."
There's also the internal struggle between quarterback and coach for the two to gain an almost unbreakable level of trust. Holmgren fought through such a dynamic with Brett Favre, Steve Young and Matt Hasselbeck and said it will take time for Cutler and Trestman to develop real chemistry.
Holmgren's only advice to Cutler at this point would be "to smile a little more."
"He looks like he's not having nearly enough fun out there," Holmgren said. "I think everybody is watching the quarterback. His teammates are watching him. The fans are watching him. Even though you say, 'Well, what's that have to do with anything?' Well, I think it does. That's what I would talk to him about. I think when the head coach and the quarterback get into this real trust thing, and I don't want to sound corny. But it happened with Matt Hasselbeck. It happened with Brett Favre. The first year or two when you're trying to implement or change their game perhaps, or get them to do it a certain way, they're thoroughbreds and they fight you a little bit. Steve Young was the same way. Then all of the sudden, a light comes on and to quote Matt Hasselbeck with me, he came into my office. He goes: 'I get it. I get it. I'm sorry that I fought you on stuff.' I said, 'Matt, did you ever think that I didn't want you to be good?'
"So I think there's a point in time where that happens. It's a trust thing. He's like an extension of you on the field, and I think that just takes some time. Now, having said that, the player who is an awesome player, he has to totally buy in and believe you're there to help him. Until that happens, you see these little inconsistencies I guess."