Bears embrace Trestman's words
Coach preaches humility, and so far that has been a winning formula in Chicago
Chicago Hot Button: Defensive Linemen
CHICAGO -- Not long after his first win as an NFL head coach, the culmination of decades of hard work, hirings, firings and making that Canadian bacon, Marc Trestman was asked a reasonable question about the victory's importance to him.
After all, Trestman literally wrote the book on his own career.
But the longtime assistant who finally landed his dream job wouldn't take the bait.
"I give them all credit," he said. "Sundays are for players. Sunday is the players' day to celebrate the privilege of playing in the National Football League."
Doesn't he know this is the NFL? We have storylines to create, myths to make, a mini-Ditka to anoint.
"Whose team is this?" is a popular game we play in covering and talking about sports. We like to know the hierarchy of a team, even if it is exaggerated.
Depending on the day, the Bulls are Tom Thibodeau's team, Derrick Rose's team or Joakim Noah's team.
The Cubs are a Theo Epstein creation, even though he might not want credit just yet. The White Sox were a Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen duet. The Blackhawks are Jonathan Toews' team, even if some want to credit only the owner and president.
Given that his hiring was a radical departure from the previous coach, Trestman is the easy answer to take over the limelight, even if it doesn't quite suit his bookish persona.
Given the franchise's devotion to defense and a lunch-pail running attack, Trestman seemed more attuned to be a Professor of the Midway at the University of Chicago.
And by virtue of his own ubiquity, The Coach is almost always the lead character in the chronicling of a sports season. He talks the most, after all.
But a good coach doesn't suck up all the oxygen. Not everyone can be Da Coach. And a good coach espouses all those team-first clichés we get sick of hearing.
Lovie Smith, a true players' coach, hated when we talked about the Lovie Smith defense or the Mike Martz offense.
"It's the Chicago Bears offense," he'd say. "The Chicago Bears defense."
Trestman went over his media relations philosophy in his aforementioned book, "Perseverance: Life Lessons on Leadership and Teamwork." He noted that he tells every player in training camp, "When the media wants to direct their questions at 'how great YOU are,' you need to turn it around and think about the TEAM first. Answering a question that relates to your personal success with an answer that credits the team is humble and respectful. You simply cannot be 'too humble' in this business."
Not exactly groundbreaking stuff, but it seems as if that message is being sent behind closed doors, as well.
Asked about Trestman's offense after the Bears' 24-21 win over Cincinnati on Sunday, receiver Brandon Marshall politely corrected the questioner.
"We don't look at it as that, we look at it as our offense," Marshall said. "Coach Trestman is definitely our leader, but we all take ownership. That's what they sell us. Coach actually said it yesterday, Coach [Aaron] Kromer, said we'll be great when we take over this offense as our offense. I think we did that today."
Trestman understands this more than most, which is why he has given Cutler so much power. And I don't just mean audibles. Cutler seems to have taken to his expanded role, which included organizing the offense in offseason meetings and pregame warm-ups during the preseason.
For a guy described most warmly as aloof, Cutler seems more comfortable now, a family man in his contract year. He followed Trestman's lead after the game, praising the offensive line, his receivers and his coach.
"That's what Tres is about," Cutler said of the key fourth-down call to run Forte. "He's going to roll the dice. He believes in us on offense. The way those two guys were playing up front, really all five of those guys, we could've called pretty much anything we wanted."
Marshall was ready to testify to Cutler's increased stature in the opener.
"Jay was amazing in the huddle," Marshall said. "Man, this guy every play has so much going on. We had four or five different plays every snap. For him to get us going, I don't think we [had any pre-snap penalties]. That's a testimony to his leadership."
The Bears' offense started slow Sunday. Trestman took some blame for that, as good coaches do, by noting he went a little vanilla with play calls to make Cutler comfortable and initiate two rookie linemen into their first NFL action.
Cutler called two early timeouts, which in the past was a byproduct of confusion from Martz's verbiage overload and Cutler's lack of communication with Mike Tice. This, Cutler said, was different.
"We were playing games with them," he said. "They would shift and play games with us. We just didn't want to put us in a situation where we would have a bad play and put us in negative yards. We have them, might as well burn them."
You could see the organization early. With short field position thanks to a turnover, the Bears' second offensive series resulted in an 8-yard touchdown pass to Martellus Bennett in traffic.
Overall, Cutler went 10-for-19 for 70 yards in the first half as the Bears trailed 14-10.
But in the second half, which included just one series in the third quarter, Cutler went 11-for-14 for 172 yards, with one touchdown, one interception and a big 18-yard run.
In the third quarter, Forte had a 1-yard touchdown run, which followed a more impressive pile-moving 4-yard rush. Marshall had two big catches, including the go-ahead touchdown.
For the Bears to be great, the stars like Cutler, Marshall and Forte need to lead them. On Sunday, they did.
Soon, it should be their offense to own.