The question was innocuous enough.
But it struck a nerve with Marc Trestman during his lengthy introductory news conference in January.
"Based on the pieces you have in place, do you anticipate any major changes by bringing in a new defensive coordinator?"
Trestman's reply: "With all due respect, they're not pieces. … They are men who love football. And I get that. During my transformation, they will never be pieces again. They are valued people. And thank you for asking the question so I could give that type of answer."
The exchange mostly was ignored that day. But buried in it is the story of a man who made some mistakes and then changed his life. It is a story of redemption.
This is the story of how Marc Trestman was given what he calls an "almost unexplainable opportunity" to become coach of the Bears at 57.
To understand where Trestman is, we first have to understand where he's from. In his first NFL incarnation, Trestman was supposed to become the next Mike Holmgren.
In fact, Bill Walsh was interested in hiring Trestman in 1986 to coach the 49ers quarterbacks. The Vikings blocked him as they had Trestman under contract. Instead, Walsh hired Holmgren.
Other coaches who either hired Trestman or were interested in hiring him in the first stage of his coaching career include Lee Corso, Butch Davis, Bud Grant, Jon Gruden, Jimmy Johnson, Sean Payton, Wade Phillips, Bobby Ross, Howard Schnellenberger, Marty Schottenheimer, George Seifert and Don Shula.
He was considered one of the premier offensive strategists in the game. There unmistakably was something very special about him.
"I've probably hired 100 coaches in 17 years of being a head coach, and interviewed a lot more," said Dave Wannstedt, who brought Trestman to the Dolphins to be his quarterbacks coach in 2004. "Of all the guys I've interviewed, he was as sharp, organized and good as any."
But there also was something missing.
Fugitives on the lam have moved less than Trestman. Before he became head coach of the Montreal Alouettes in 2008, he coached in 10 cities and worked for 17 head coaches.
He moved on after one season three times and after two seasons four times.
He was fired seven times, including five times as part of an entire staff firing.
He once was fired after making it to the AFC championship game. Another time he was let go after a 12-4 season. And then he was fired one season after getting to the Super Bowl.
Part of it was bad luck. Of the nine times Trestman was hired as an NFL assistant, he was brought in with a new coach only twice. He usually was an add-on, a lone wolf trying to edge his way into an established pack.
"I went into a lot of situations as what I would call a mercenary," he said.
He didn't always fit in. There were conflicts.
During his second stay with the Vikings in the early '90s, some perceived him as a "behind the scenes guy" according to another staff member. And there were issues with other teams.
Schottenheimer hired him for the Browns. But the next year owner Art Modell fired Schottenheimer and promoted Trestman to offensive coordinator when he hired Schottenheimer's replacement, Bud Carson.
"We forced him to keep Trestman," said Ernie Accorsi, who was the Browns' general manager at the time. "You can't do that. In this business with the way everybody is looking around corners, he immediately was painted as management's guy. Marc was not hard to get along with, but he didn't get along with Carson under those circumstances."
In early 1990, 15 minutes after his marriage on a golf course in Hawaii, Trestman returned to his honeymoon suite to see a light flashing on his telephone. He was fired.
But his worst coaching experience came 15 years later.
Trestman had been an offensive coordinator seven of the previous eight seasons and had achieved outstanding results working with the likes of Rich Gannon and Steve Young. He went to the Dolphins at the behest of Norv Turner, then the offensive coordinator, to be assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach.
Then, as Trestman flew from Oakland to Miami, Turner was on a plane to Oakland to become the coach of the Raiders.
Trestman was by far the most qualified assistant on the Dolphins staff to replace Turner, but Wannstedt instead promoted running backs coach Joel Collier because, he said, he wanted to maintain Turner's system and remain primarily a running team. Health issues forced Collier to step down before training camp opened, and Wannstedt bypassed Trestman a second time, promoting tight ends coach Chris Foerster.
Neither Collier nor Foerster ever had coordinated offenses before. The concept was the offense was supposed to be run by committee. But the committee couldn't agree on anything, and the team imploded.
"We had some good coaches there, but I don't know if it ever got organized on who was doing what," said Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, who was the Dolphins general manager at the time. "I remember some of the thoughts and ideas he had that were great, but I don't know if they all meshed with everybody else's ideas."
Assistants with the team said Trestman challenged decisions, and some of the other offensive coaches resented him for it.
"There were a lot of issues," Wannstedt said. "Fault me, not Marc."
Said Trestman, "I thought I was going to be there with Norv. It wound up being a completely different situation. I thought Dave Wannstedt treated me extremely well. That was a learning moment for me. I think I was carrying some baggage that I would admit to from getting fired in Oakland. There was some leftover anger and disappointment. As I look back, I would take accountability that I could have done a better job there in Miami."
The whole Miami staff was swept out after the season, and Trestman would not work full-time in the NFL again until Phil Emery hired him in Chicago eight years later.
Trestman turned down a chance to be the offensive coordinator of the Saints and instead decided to make a move that he thought was better for his young family. He would leave the NFL and become offensive coordinator for North Carolina State.
It was then that Trestman started to see his job from a different perspective.
In his book "Perseverance: Life Lessons on Leadership and Teamwork," Trestman wrote, "You see, as a college coach I became a teacher, a father, a confidant, a mentor; not just a guy trying to make first downs. It was an entirely different mindset. I began to realize that for some, I was the first male figure in their lives away from home. They became my children, in a sense, and I began to care deeply about each and every one of them in a way that went beyond the game."
Trestman and his family were comfortable living in Raleigh, N.C., and he envisioned himself finally taking root in his job and community.
But then the entire staff was let go after his second season. He said it was the most devastating firing of his career. It left him "bitter, angry and crushed."
At his lowest point, Trestman, on the advice of a mutual friend, sought the counsel of Gary Stevenson. The longtime sports television executive was known as a man who could give good advice.
Trestman told his story to Stevenson, who now heads up Pac-12 Enterprises. But where Trestman saw a dead end, Stevenson saw one road branching out into many others. Trestman just had to pick one.
He urged Trestman to look at this period, during which Trestman still was being paid by North Carolina State, as a time of liberation. He pointed out most successful people have the best runs of their careers between the ages of 45 and 60.
Really, what Stevenson did was remind him that the keys to Trestman's shackles and chains were right there in his pocket.
Trestman started to look at his firing as an opportunity, and this period as the halftime of his working life. And he had plenty of time to re-evaluate the first half while game planning for the second.
He read books on leadership. He centered himself. He retraced the steps of his career.
When he 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.
"I was never belligerent, malicious or mean-spirited in anything I did," he said. "I was just not paying attention very well to what was going on around me. I was so focused on my work that I didn't recognize it's more important to develop ongoing relationships with people, to spend time with them, to get to know them, to let them know that you care."
He thought back about his father Jerry, who had owned a restaurant called Danny's on 14th and Chicago in downtown Minneapolis. Employees had been loyal to him for nearly three decades.
"I realized why people loved my dad so much," Trestman said. "He cared about people. That's why they worked so hard for him, that's why they chose to stay there. I decided it was time to look at the way I did things differently."
He also flew to Los Angeles to spend time with his old pal Pete Carroll. Back in the day, they were the whiz kids on Grant's Vikings staff — "Bud's Boys," they were called.
More than 20 years later, Carroll was the most successful coach in college football at USC, and Trestman was nowhere.
Trestman watched how Carroll coached his players and built his football philosophy — how the Trojans organized practice, what they emphasized and how their week was structured. Carroll mapped it all out for him.
Now, Trestman had a blueprint. And so he came to a decision.
"I was 50," he said. "I crossed this line. There was not much time left. You feel mortality. I didn't want to be a coordinator again. I needed to be a head football coach."
These days, there is a calmness about Trestman that can emanate only from inner peace.
He doesn't just look you in the eye. He looks through your eyes, as if he is searching for something beyond. And he shakes your hand with a big, powerful, thoughtful grip.
The grace Bears players will encounter in Trestman always has been there. But sometimes it was lost in the vortex of game planning, play designing and deciphering tendencies.
Throughout Trestman's past are examples of common and uncommon kindness.
Mark Anthony DiBello still calls Trestman "brother" 30 years after Trestman helped him through one of the darkest times of his life. DiBello was a walk-on at the University of Miami, and Trestman was a grad assistant.
DiBello had to leave the team to be with his mother, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He said his mother urged him to return to the team, but Trestman told him to stay with her, and promised he would help him regain his roster spot the next year. Trestman stayed true to his word.
Thirteen years ago, a young job seeker with no connections was standing outside the gate of a Senior Bowl practice. Most NFL people had no time for him. He recognized Trestman and approached him, telling him he had driven to Mobile, Ala., from St. Cloud, Minn.
Could Trestman give him some advice? Trestman not only gave him some time, but he also gave him a pass to get on the field.
Later that year, Trent Kirchner was hired by then-Seahawks personnel director John Schneider, whom he met on the field that day. Now Kirchner is the Seahawks' assistant director of pro personnel, and he considers Trestman a friend for life.
And then there was this. When he was in Cleveland, Trestman would invite one of the other assistant's sons into his office to watch tape, follow him around and talk ball. He tried to make him feel at home.
They lost contact and 20 years passed. But the young man turned out to be the general manager of the Montreal Alouettes, and five years ago Jim Popp reintroduced himself to Trestman. He told him he never forgot his good will, and that he had been watching his career closely.
Oh, and he wanted to talk with him about being a head coach.
During his job interview with Popp, Trestman didn't talk about X's and O's or calling plays. He talked about leadership, teaching life skills, making the locker room an environment of respect and clarity, and his newly adopted "servant mentality."
If it was his aloofness that drove Trestman from the NFL, it was his tenderness that led him to Canada.
"Back when I was in Cleveland, I wasn't trying to set myself up for a head coaching job 20 years later by being nice to Jim," Trestman said. "I was trying to help a coach's son. When you give and don't ask anything in return, and you do it because it's the right thing to do, it comes back to you. It eventually comes back. That was the lesson I learned."
Trestman thinks a lot about selflessness these days. It creeps into every aspect of his coaching philosophy.
In recent years, Trestman has had opportunity to encounter some of the people he worked with during the first half of his coaching life. And without provocation, he has had something to say.
"I've told them I wish I could have handled some of those situations better," Trestman said. "I didn't say it because I wanted to be liked, but because it was time to do that."
When Trestman and Gary Stevenson met in 2007, Stevenson talked about how wisdom comes with age. And then Stevenson looks at his friend today.
"You put experience, passion and wisdom in a blender, and it turns into a pretty good shake," he said.
Even the CFL was a testing ground for Trestman's new coaching style. Ultimately, after two Grey Cups, Canada was his proving ground, the place where his career was resurrected.
Trestman's journey would have stopped short if not for his persistence, adaptability and undying faith.
"We've all been battered around, gotten kicked in the teeth and gone through challenges," Carroll said. "He is a good example of a guy who fought through it and came out the other end of it in a great spot."
He is a good example of a coach who can go into the halftime locker room of what appears to be a hopeless game, experience an epiphany, tear up the game plan, and then charge out to beat the world.
Trestman was on a fast track to be an NFL head coach at an early age. But he never was ready for this moment until this moment.
It took each of his 57 years to make this NFL head coach.
Tuesday: New league year, free agency begin at 3 p.m.
April 2: Voluntary offseason workouts begin
Mid-April: NFL schedule released
April 16-18: Veteran voluntary minicamp
April 25-27: NFL draft
May 10-12: Rookie minicamp
May 13-June 6: Offseason training activities
June 11-13: Mandatory minicamp
Late July: Training camp begins
Sept. 8: Opening Sunday of regular season
Team dates subject to change