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Studious Marc Trestman may have knowledge to spark Bears’ offense

Marc Trestman speaks after being introduced as new head coach Chicago Bears Halas Hall Lake Forest Ill. Thursday January 17

Marc Trestman speaks after being introduced as the new head coach of the Chicago Bears at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Ill., on Thursday, January 17, 2013. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 21, 2013 5:28PM



I looked at the Bears’ new coach. Tall, slim, unnaturally dark hair slicked back like an elder’s version of a Pat Riley ’do, thin-framed glasses that are not for effect — not with those lenses — and I felt oddly comforted.

Marc Trestman is not stunning, overwhelming or abruptly dynamic. But somehow in his quiet studiousness — he looks a bit like what a movie image of a physics professor might be — the 57-year-old coach gives the impression of a man who has a lot going on in his brain, reams of knowledge that he keeps hidden until needed, maybe things that none of the rest of us knows, or will ever know, but things that can make a difference.

He had been introduced by general manager Phil Emery on Thursday, and I liked what Emery said. He said that Trestman now had ‘‘the finest job in the National Football League, working for the greatest fans in the National Football League in the best city in the National Football League. It’s a gem, it’s a prize.’’

Amen to that. Finally.

Thank you for saying it, Phil.

And you better believe it.

So there was Trestman, the many-yeared veteran who had coached as an assistant all over the United States, then earned his major bones in Canada, coaching the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL for the last five years, winning two Grey Cups.

But this game is the NFL, and it’s going to be played in the USA. And this is Chicago.

For Trestman, who recalled watching in person the George Halas-coached Bears play his hometown Vikings in Minneapolis in 1966, the transition is going to be no problem, he says. The game is essentially the same, whether there are 12 men or 11 men on the field.

“Our overall philosophy will be very simple,’’ he said. ‘‘We want to create a locker room based on a humble, hardworking, disciplined environment. An even-keeled yet passionate, common sense, no-nonsense approach to our business.’’

Then he added, ‘‘We’re going to have fun. But we are going to have a sense of urgency on a daily basis that when we play on Sunday will give us the edge we need.’’

And the edge is winning.

Trestman is the offensive-minded guy, a former quarterback himself, and he is known as the man who will make your quarterback better than he ever has been. In 2002 with the Raiders, he made journeyman quarterback Rich Gannon the MVP of the entire NFL. Merlin couldn’t have done more.

And now he has the Bears’ perplexing quarterback, Jay Cutler, about whom Trestman said, ‘‘I can’t wait to get my hands on him.’’

That might not be a fun grab, but it will be a telling one. In fact, if the Bears’ defense can stay roughly the same as it is — despite losing coordinator Rod Marinelli — then it’s all about the offense the Bears have not been able to produce.

That means Cutler. That means play-calling.

And this is what Trestman said regarding that duty: ‘‘I’ll be calling the plays.’’ He talked about some other things that were entwined, then finished with, ‘‘But I will be calling the plays.’’

Straight. Clear. Unusual. Not many head coaches call the plays.

Trestman is not the most outgoing of people, but he is sincere, quiet, observant, bright.

I introduced myself, and we shook hands pleasantly. I mentioned that I have a friend who went to high school with him in Minnesota whose parents were friends of his parents and so on as a conversation starter, and Trestman smiled kindly, said nothing, and that was that.

Why is that comforting?

I don’t know. Maybe because football is always on this guy’s mind.

‘‘He might be a little out of the mold,’’ chairman George McCaskey acknowledged. ‘‘One of my concerns is that it might take Bears fans a little while to warm to him.’’

Winning will make them love him. Simple as that.

‘‘Our goal going in will be to stand on a podium and hold up a trophy, right?’’ Trestman said.

Absolutely.

McCaskey said that, in certain ways, Trestman reminds him of both Bill Walsh and Marv Levy, having ‘‘an intellectual’s approach to the game.’’

Of course, it’s all sweet when your new coach is undefeated.

But this feels good. This hire seems sincere and purposeful.

Maybe it’s just the change from the old regime, the pendulum swing.

But this new guy might work.



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