Levy knows about missed 47-yard field goals

Hall of Famer called Trestman to encourage him after Bears lost to Vikings following Gould's off-the-mark 47-yarder

Marc Trestman probably was in need of a kind word after last Sunday's controversial 23-20 overtime loss to the Vikings.

And Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy, a friend and mentor, was there with an encouraging phone call to Trestman on Tuesday.

"I did give him a brief call and talked some. I don't do that often," Levy told me. "Some of the advice? I quoted Winston Churchill … 'When you're going through hell, keep on going.'"

Levy, a Chicago native, knows how it feels to see his kicker miss a possible game-winning field goal from 47 yards out in a crucial contest. And he knows how it feels to be second-guessed as a coach and a general manager.

Levy took his Bills to four straight Super Bowls, but came away without the big prize. In the Bills' Super Bowl XXV loss to the Giants, kicker Scott Norwood missed wide right from 47 yards on grass on second down with just seconds left in a 20-19 loss. Quarterback Jim Kelly had spiked the ball at the Giants' 29 on first down to stop the clock with 8 seconds left before the Giants called timeout.

Trestman had Robbie Gould attempt his 47-yarder Sunday against the Vikings on second down with 4:12 remaining in OT.

"At that time, there were only 44 percent of kicks being made between the 45 and 50 (in the early '90s)," Levy said. "But what a parallel … 47 yards, barely wide right … my gosh. At least (Gould) has the opportunity to come back and his focus is good.

"Yeah, 47-yarder … but Robbie Gould had made approximately 75 percent of them (from that distance) in the past. And he was in an indoor environment. So there are arguments both ways. I read Marc's comment about: 'What if we get a penalty?'

"It was, what? Second-and-7? If he runs a play, the likelihood of gaining a lot of yards is slim. It's still going to be third down and it's still going to be a long (field goal). It isn't likely that on third down you are going to keep trying to get (the first down) because that doesn't give you the (room for a) mistake … the bad snap and recover opportunity.

"Yeah, there are arguments on both sides of it. I can see why there is criticism. But if he had made it, the story would have been: 'What a gutsy call Marc Trestman made!'"

Trestman's NFL career path has been similar to Levy's. Both were longtime NFL assistant coaches.

Levy coached the Montreal Alouettes from 1973-77. In 1978, he was hired to coach the Chiefs. He became coach of the Bills in 1986.

Trestman, who has a law degree, went to the CFL to coach the Alouettes from 2008-2012, and he took them to three Grey Cups, winning two, just as Levy had.

Despite his coaching success, Levy, who earned a master's degree in English history from Harvard, knows that criticism comes with the territory of being a head coach.

"It is fine fodder for the game critic and the guys who know it all. And I don't have a problem with any of that," Levy said. "I think that when people express opinions, that helps make the game popular.

"If something doesn't work, you're going to be subject to criticism. (Former NFL coach) Tommy Prothro once said that for a coach, 'If you decide to do something and it doesn't work, you should have done the other thing.'

"It's tough and Marc has responded to the criticism. He gives his opinion and he doesn't lash out and say 'You're dummies.' At least that's my opinion. As Churchill once said: 'Everyone is entitled to my opinion.'"

Levy said he felt good about his phone call to Trestman, and he feels encouraged about the future of the Bears.

"(Trestman) does have them headed the right way," Levy said. "The offense is superb.

"I admire how he is handling a very difficult situation and focusing in on what comes next. That's what is important. That's how our teams got back to the Super Bowl three more times."

fmitchell@tribune.com

Twitter @kicker34

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