Trestman's redemption

Bears coach once was so caught up in X's and O's, he forgot game about people

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.

First half

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.

CHICAGO

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