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Coach and QB on same page in drawing offense together

Trestman and Cutler striving to make everyone at ease with roles after loss to Lions

David Haugh

In the Wake of the News

October 4, 2013

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In February 2007, Marc Trestman was an unemployed football coach teaching for an on-line sports training company when he arrived at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis for a corporate speaking engagement.

Trestman did more profound listening than talking that weekend.

Saints coach Sean Payton, who started comparing notes with Trestman years earlier as the Giants offensive coordinator, convinced his buddy to join the team as a consultant for training camp. Later that August, Payton valued Trestman's input so much he asked him to extend the agreement into the season. So every Monday morning, Trestman flew to New Orleans from his home in Raleigh, N.C., to study videotape of the Saints' upcoming opponent and make game-plan recommendations to Payton. On Wednesday night, he headed back to his family in North Carolina.

"It was an opportunity to have some dignity in my career,'' Trestman recalled Thursday. "I had just been let go at N.C. State, I was sitting the year out, had two years left on a contract. (Payton) really showed professional respect and Mickey Loomis, the GM, made me feel very much a part of things.''

Besides providing a collegial backdrop for Sunday's Bears-Saints game, the episode offers another example of how resourceful Trestman becomes when confronting adversity. He relied on intelligence and experience, two Trestman traits the Bears trust most coming off a loss that created his first mini-crisis.

Defensively, the problems through four games appear personnel-related and something general manager Phil Emery can address easier than Trestman (Any defensive linemen available via the NFL's suddenly bustling trade market?) Offensively, smart money says Trestman will figure out how to minimize Jay Cutler's Motown Meltdown and Brandon Marshall's concerns over being neglected. If Trestman can't, the Saints will march back home unbeaten and the Bears' issues only will multiply Monday.

"You have to have the emotional stability to come back and put the past behind you and go to work,'' Trestman said.

Doing so requires discipline and focus Trestman displayed in politely dismissing any comparison of Cutler to Drew Brees and the notion that the Saints will struggle playing outdoors. But inside the locker room, the uneasiness evident at Halas Hall surfaced when tight end Martellus Bennett was asked an innocent question about his Saints counterpart, Jimmy Graham.

"I don't give a (crap)," Bennett snapped. "He does a phenomenal job for the Saints but I'm not in competition with him. We have different roles.''

Cutler's role remains putting teammates — heck, every Bears fan in Chicago — in a good frame of mind by playing better than he did in the four-turnover loss to the Lions, which wouldn't be hard. Again, Cutler downplayed a pregame illness contributing to one of his worst games as a Bear. But a source confirmed a WSCR-AM report that the Type 1 diabetic received intravenous fluids, intended to avoid any potential problems with his blood-sugar level. Four days later, Cutler looked stronger and nothing has been healthier than his approach to taking responsibility for mistakes the eight-year veteran knows he cannot make.

"Sometimes it's hard to walk back in that locker room and know, 'Hey, I was responsible for four turnovers' and you put your team in that position,'' Cutler said. "It makes you feel bad. … It just brings everything into perspective of how important my job is of taking care of the ball and making sure that I put us in a position to win each week.''

This week, like every week, Cutler's job includes reinforcing to Marshall how important he is to the offense. Historically in the NFL, No. 1 wide receivers lead their teams in receptions and hugs. Statistics show Marshall has been targeted 42 times — more than Calvin Johnson, Wes Welker and Larry Fitzgerald — yet neither Cutler nor Trestman did much to squelch speculation that the Pro Bowl wide receiver had made it clear he wanted the ball more.

"He has gotten a lot better over the years handling those situations professionally,'' Cutler said. "It used to be a little more dramatic than it is now."

On Thursday at the Walter Payton Center, Marshall declined to discuss anything after missing practice with a toe injury. Marshall cited a rule prohibiting injured players from speaking to reporters but a Bears spokesman said no policy existed. Ever the diplomat, Trestman welcomed continued dialogue with Marshall and recalled an in-game conversation leading to a touchdown pass against the Bengals.

"As a play-caller you have an obligation to make sure the key players are targeted enough to where they know that we're giving them opportunities and I feel secure in knowing that that's happening,'' Trestman said.

Somehow throughout his career, Trestman usually finds a way.

dhaugh@tribune.com

Twitter @DavidHaugh