Marc Trestman May Never Get Another Shot After Failing Fantastically in Chicago

Michael Schottey@SchotteyNFL National Lead WriterDecember 18, 2014

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Marc Trestman's coaching career is in jeopardy, and I don't just mean for Trestman in Chicago. That's not really a bold proclamation at this point. Dan Bernstein of CBS Chicago wrote Tuesday that Bears ownership met, and Trestman was likely to be fired. The Chicago Bears are 5-9 in Trestman's second year with the team, and the offense has been terrible.

Heading into Week 16, the Bears are 12th in passing yards, mostly because quarterback Jay Cutler isn't getting credit for all the yardage he creates by throwing it to the other team. He leads the league with 18 interceptions and is being benched in favor of Jimmy Clausen, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter

No, rather, I mean that Trestman might be totally done in the NFL

Trestman with the Raiders
Trestman with the RaidersMARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ/Associated Press

The Bears' soon-to-be-former coach had been in a chilly exile north of the border, spending five years as head coach of the Montreal Alouettes. Before that, Trestman had a few years at North Carolina State as an offensive coordinator but had been a storied NFL offensive coordinator, spending 1985 to 2004 as an NFL coach in some capacity. 

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That's from the year I was born to the year I graduated high school. 

The answer to why Trestman might be done as an NFL head coach following this year is the same as why he was such a dark-horse candidate to coach the Bears and why he had been in Canada anyway: He doesn't fit into the NFL's paradigm of coaching demeanor and acumen. 

The book on Trestman has always been that he's an odd duck who didn't always rub people the right way. He was a near-perfect fit in his years as the Oakland Raiders' quarterback coach and offensive coordinator because that franchise has always embraced the oddities and rarities in both players and coaches, but other than that stint, Trestman only lasted a handful of years in every NFL stop. 

Dan Pompei, who has covered the league for years and used to write for the Chicago Tribune, did a deep dive into Trestman's penchant for getting on people's bad sides. It's fantastic work, and anyone interested in why Trestman's not going to get another fair shake should read the entire thing and consider exhibits A through Z. I'll highlight this little nugget, though:

When [Trestman] looked back, this is what he saw: An unfulfilled, unhappy man with a "standoffish personality." Even his wife Cindy lovingly referred to him as socially dysfunctional.

Trestman was one of those coaches who would close his office door, turn off the lights, turn on the tape and grind. That's what coaches do, right?

Trestman was so caught up in X's and O's, he forgot the game was about people.

Now, maybe Trestman has changed, and it's not exactly mind-blowing that someone can grow both personally and professionally when faced with the lowest of career lows. Pompei's story is framed around Trestman's redemption, but that redemption was hardly completed thanks to wins and losses in Chicago.

For a slightly more personal take, Pro Football Talk featured a write-up by Darin Gantt of former Oakland Raiders receiver Tim Brown, who told the Waddle & Silvy Show he was "shocked" Trestman was going to be a head coach in the NFL:

He’s a really smart guy, knows football like the back of his hand. That’s not the issue, ... But there’s a lot more to coaching than just Xs and Os. You have to be able to deal with players and that’s the reason [former Raiders coach] Bill Callahan hasn’t succeeded as a head coach because he’s a smart guy, knows football like the back of his hand, but when it comes to leading me, it’s a totally different intangible you have to have.

It’s going to be very interesting to see how [Trestman] and Jay Cutler get along, that’s for sure.

In that same column, Pro Football Talk did some editorializing, alluding to some of the back-channel scuttlebutt concerning Trestman:

Those questions about Trestman are far from new, and there are plenty of NFL types who grumble about what they perceive as an air of intellectual superiority Trestman carries himself with. But he also has experience as a head coach (even though it was in the CFL) since then, and has likely learned something about man-management.

I don't know if anyone is saying Trestman is impossible to work with, but is he the type of coach who absolutely needed a quick couple of successful seasons if he was ever going to legitimize his coaching style and resume in the eyes of his players and peers?

Trestman didn't get that—not even close. His success in the CFL may have helped convince the Bears to hire him, but it is a laughable point now that he and his offense have fallen flat on their faces in the NFL. It might not be as big of a deal if Trestman fit more neatly into the boxes that other NFL coaches do, but he's always been his own kind of man. 

The Medium's Tim Baffoe, who also writes for 670 The Score in Chicago, called Trestman a "mad scientist of sorts" and had this to say about Trestman's handling of the team:

By all accounts, Trestman has deployed a new-wave approach to his locker room; cerebral and less authoritative, a hands-off structure when it comes to players expressing themselves. He relocated several lockers when he took over in an effort to facilitate bonding. He likes team-building exercises and group outings. (He also took heat for allowing Brandon Marshall to appear weekly on Showtime’s Inside the NFL, and letting Briggs miss practice to open a restaurant.)

Baffoe echoes another writer close to Chicago. Former NFL scout Greg Gabriel wrote for CBS Chicago that Trestman hasn't adapted both on the field and off in this NFL stint:

In 2013, Trestman’s offense did a very good job, but in 2014, defenses adapted and adjusted. The result has been an underachieving offense. Trestman didn’t have an answer to the adjustments.

Not only has Trestman struggled to adapt to changes in game strategy, but he hasn’t adapted to what goes on in the locker room. In talking to Bears players and former players, I keep hearing the same thing.

They don’t respect Trestman as coach and a leader.

Saying later:

You have to remember, the locker room is the players’ sanctuary, and it’s where they “live.” Players want to feel comfortable in their room. If a coach wants the players to perform for him, he has to let the players have their own identity.

Another worry I have heard from players is the lack of accountability. While the players were told they were going to be held accountable for their off-field issues, they weren’t even held accountable for their on-field performance.

Players aren’t stupid. They know who is playing well and who isn’t. They know when someone earns a job or is given a job. When the wrong people are playing, players take notice and react. Usually the reaction isn’t good.

Before the season, I developed my own "talking points" about the Bears, as I do for many topics while I cruise the country's airwaves doing countless radio spots about all sorts of NFL-related issues. For the Bears, I said they were a "boom-or-bust" team in very much the same way we talk about draft prospects as 100 percent hit or miss. 

Yes, the Bears have talent. Even with the injuries it's evident they have that. They've spent a lot of money on bringing in free agents and could probably be closer to 9-5 than 5-9 if they were playing up to potential. Anyone who says the Bears don't have playoff-caliber talent is looking more at the results than the actual roster. 

That doesn't mean the Bears are good, though...quite the opposite! No, they busted like a bad Vegas weekend. The reason the bust was always going to be so entertaining to watch (well, not for Bears fans—sorry, guys!) was because of the personalities—Trestman included—the team had brought together. 

Cutler and his near-constant nonchalance?

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

Wide receiver Brandon Marshall may be one of the most intellectual young men in the NFL and one of my favorite guys to cover, but he's got a laundry list of incidents in his background and recently got into it with teammates in the locker room. 

Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, tight end Martellus Bennett, offensive lineman Kyle Long and others to a lesser degree are all great teammates, but they also all have an edge to their game and personalities that could add some fuel to locker room fires when losing is such a great catalyst. 

Let's be clear: None of this is a knock on those players (well, maybe Cutler), and they're all the kind of men one would want on a team. At the same time, though? This team had to win and had to have a head coach capable of leading it through choppy waters and smooth. 

That's just not Trestman. 

Finally, remember who Trestman was supposed to be when he arrived in Chicago? The Bears had a solid football coach anyway. Lovie Smith may have never won another Super Bowl for the Bears for the rest of his career, but he was going to make them far more competitive (at least hovering around mediocrity!) than Trestman has. 

Trestman was supposed to shake things up, and even if that means taking a step backward to take a few more forward and be better prepared for life in an offense-dominated NFL, that would've been excusable. 

There was no mandate to win a Super Bowl (or even a playoff game) in the first two years. 

There was a mandate to fix the offense. 

The offense is broken beyond repair. 

Trestman is supposed to be a quarterback guru, and Cutler has been far too uncoachable for such a renowned passing whisperer. The problem with divorcing these two and Trestman not being shown the door is that the Bears are linked with Cutler for the foreseeable future. 

The Chicago Tribune's Brad Biggs (subscription required) broke it down this way:

The Bears' contract assures Cutler $15.5 million for 2015, and if he is on the roster on the third day of the 2015 league year, which will come in March, a $10 million guarantee for 2016 kicks in. The final $6 million in the much-reported number of $54 million guaranteed comes in March 2016. So, the Bears could get out from under the contract at the end of this season, but they would have to pay Cutler $15.5 million to exit on top of the $22.5 million he has earned this season.

Yeah, so that's not happening.

Trestman is going to be shown the door having legitimized all of the chatter that he couldn't handle a locker room while simultaneously shattering the paradigm that he is some offensive genius who was ready to school the rest of the league on passing strategies. 

Why would any team look at his time with the Bears and think Trestman is worth hiring again?

Michael Schottey is an NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff on his archive page and follow him on Twitter.