8:01 PM CST, January 17, 2013
Bears general manager Phil Emery and new head coach Marc Trestman celebrate birthdays just a day apart from one another. That's one of the nifty — dare we say synergetic? — connections between the two men. Sadly, they weren't born in late May or the first few weeks of June. That would have made them Geminis, of course, sign of the twins. No, they're a couple old Capricorns, which means they're depicted as goats with fish tails, not the greatest image for football.
Regardless, listening to Emery during a surprisingly introspective introduction of Trestman at Thursday's news conference, one thing became immediately clear: The general manager sees something of himself in his new coach.
Emery recognizes the narrative of long-suffering, hard-working acolyte laboring through the backwaters without ego or expectation. It must have been irresistible for a worker bee like Emery to chose Trestman over Bruce Arians, to make a forgotten man's dream come true, to honor toiling in obscurity over national prominence.
Arians, of course, was the easy hire. Already a leading Coach of the Year candidate for his work in Indianapolis after Chuck Pagano was forced to take a few months off to battle leukemia, Arians also supposedly would come with Ken Whisenhunt, the recently fired Cardinals coach who just signed as offensive coordinator for the Chargers instead. And Russ Grimm, a one-time Bears candidate, would be there as well as offensive line coach. For an organization long rumored to want Bill Cowher, that's a bundle of Cowher assistants, all with proven NFL track records.
Emery didn't deny that Arians had that kind of firepower behind him, he just sort of dismissed it as theory. Trestman, it should be noted, comes with a respected offensive coordinator/offensive line specialist in Aaron Kromer, who went 2-4 this year with New Orleans as a fill-in head coach.
Emery said as he searched his soul for the reason Trestman was the right man for the job, he came back to the coaches success in the Canadian Football League, where Trestman won two Grey Cups with the Montreal Alouettes and appeared in another.
"No. 1, the skills as a professional and the mental toughness that it takes to go into some place that you've never been before, that they don't know you or anything about you, where they speak a foreign language … in a game that is different than the one you're used to coaching,'' Emery said. "… To take on the task of being a head football coach and do it with a (new) staff that you hired. … And to have great success and to win championships, that tells me a lot about that candidate."
Glowing stuff. For a guy like Emery, who once took a demotion with the Falcons and worked so hard the guy who demoted him helped him get his old title back by recommending him to the Chiefs, seeing an NFL coach move to Canada to become a head coach must have been an inspiration.
But while Emery may have seen a mirror image of himself, maybe it was a carnival mirror he was looking into. Trestman has spent 17 years in the NFL and has earned a solid reputation. But he has been mostly out of the league since 2004 with the last five years spent in a league of just eight teams.
Trestman worked in a league where six of the eight teams made the playoffs. He coached in a league where 20 of the 42 players on the active roster had to be non-imports, as they are called in the CFL. Canadians.
The budget for a CFL team is $7 million. The entire team, mind you. That's a signing bonus in NFL terms
You can lead and unify a team of players making little money and living on a dream. Guys with a $7 million signing bonus can tell you where to go.
Nevertheless, his dream came true on Tuesday, but the real work is only beginning. Already the ship is taking on water with the departure of special teams coordinator Dave Toub and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. The Bears excelled in their areas in part because they had consistency and stability. If the Bears lose an inch in either discipline, the war could be lost.
At an age when many men want to scale back, the 57 year-old Trestman has landed a full-time, high-pressure, lifestyle-changing dream job that will require Emery-like work habits for success. Either he turns out to be a Gemini or everybody becomes a sea-goat.
Special contributor Mike Mulligan co-hosts "The Mully and Hanley Show" weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on WSCR-AM 670.
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