- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears introduced Marc Trestman on Thursday as the franchise's 14th head coach, and he expressed immediate excitement about the prospect of working with quarterback Jay Cutler.
A noted quarterbacks guru who spent the past five years coaching the CFL's Montreal Alouettes, Trestman said he "can't wait to get my hands" on Cutler, who he plans to make a more efficient passer in 2013.
Trestman originally met Cutler 10 years ago in Raleigh, N.C. But the coach calls Cutler "a different guy" now and said he might be poised to take the next step in his development.
"He's in tune to where he is and where he wants to go," said Trestman, who signed a four-year contract with the Bears. "He understands his strengths and weaknesses, and he wants to go forward. I can't wait to go to work with him, and I think he's ready. We're going to try to put a system of football and put people around him that can help him be the player that he wants to be. That's the exciting part, and we'll get started today."
Trestman revealed that he'll call plays on offense during games but stopped short of discussing specifics regarding his potential scheme. Based on his history, it will incorporate many of the concepts associated with the West Coast offense, which emphasizes timing, rhythm and short completions that allow receivers to gain yardage after the catch. Those are concepts Cutler has shown comfort with under Mike Shanahan in Denver, where the quarterback experienced his most successful years as a passer.
It's likely the new offense will implement concepts designed to get the ball deep, too, given the personnel on hand and Trestman's stated preference for building around the talent.
Bears general manager Phil Emery provided an example.
"The first thing that Marc asked me was, 'For you, when you're drafting players, is it the best player or the best system-fit player?,' " Emery said. "I said, 'Absolutely it's the best player; you want the best player that can transcend schemes, that has a skill set that will work out and will be able to progress as a player regardless of the scheme.' He said, 'Good, if I'm the head football coach, let's do that, because I can take those players, and we'll take their skill sets and we can adapt to what they do best so that we can win.' That's a very attractive quality, and he's demonstrated it."
Trestman surely will look to do that with Cutler by utilizing his own philosophies meshed with the quarterback's arm, which is considered to be among the strongest in the league.
During Chicago's interview process, Trestman and Cutler sat down for a lunch meeting. By the end of the two hours, neither had touched their food, Cutler said Thursday during "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN Chicago 1000.
"That was a good thing," Cutler said. "As soon as he sat down, we started talking and kind of hit the ground running. We talked a lot of different things from my personal life to his personal life, to football, to how I got to the position I'm in now, and how he got to the position he's in. It was fun.
"As a coach and as a player, he understands that you've got to know the guy and like the guy. It goes both ways. I've got to know him and like him for this relationship to work. And it's a relationship. It's not just working a thing where he calls plays in my ear, and I run them. It's a lot more to it, and he understands that."
Cutler leads the franchise in career completions (1,034), and is second in all-time completion percentage (59.6).
Cutler finished the 2012 season with 19 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions, and absorbed 38 sacks. Widely criticized by observers for lapses in his mechanics, Cutler will be drilled by Trestman moving forward in those areas. One of 13 candidates to interview for the head coaching job, Trestman came away with the sense that management wants to start holding Cutler to a higher level of accountability.
Perhaps that's where Trestman steps into the equation.
"Part of the calendar is getting together with Jay, taking it play by play throughout the season, evaluating his performance in different ways in a macro level and on a micro level," Trestman said. "The big things that he does that he wants to improve on and we want him to improve, on and (off) the micro level, from taking a snap to dropping back, throwing the football and everything in between. It's a meticulous process. That's the way we're gonna start."
Whether it's shoddy protection, a lack of weapons, or unimaginative play calling, there seems to be no shortage of excuses for Cutler's play the past four years with the Bears. The fact his 81.9 passer rating ranks as the best in team history might even provide an answer for why the franchise is approaching three decades since its last Super Bowl victory -- average-to-subpar play from the quarterbacks.
Of the four QBs still in the playoffs, only one -- Baltimore's Joe Flacco -- owns a passer rating in the 80s (87.7). San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick, New England's Tom Brady and Atlanta's Matt Ryan have passer ratings of 98.3, 98.7, and 99.1, respectively.
So while Cutler possesses talent and athletic skills comparable to the aforementioned QBs, the key is for him to match their efficiency. Trestman said he'll give Cutler "the keys to the car, because he's in the best situation before the snap of the ball to get us in the best play." But first the coach wants to provide more driving tips.
Asked whether Cutler is truly a franchise quarterback, the new head coach avoided making bold proclamations.
"Jay Cutler is a guy who loves football. Jay Cutler is a guy who's willing to learn. Jay Cutler, to me in my very short time with him wants to do everything he can to help his franchise and please our amazing fans," Trestman said. "That's where we're gonna start, and we're gonna work one day at a time in a proactive way with a sense of urgency to get him to be the guy that he wants to be, and we want him to be."
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