I often subscribe to the “better the devil you know” theory, but in this case I’ll take the uncertainty of not knowing for sure how well Marc Trestman will do as the Bears’ HC over what I already know about Lovie Smith.
While I was never a huge fan of Smith, I was not exactly a hater either. I didn’t like certain things about his personality, and his in-game coaching left a lot to be desired. His clock management was poor. And we already know Trestman will be better in that regard since he had less time to work with to get plays in in the CFL.
But Lovie’s teams won—no, not the BIG ONE, but they won more than they lost—and his players played hard for him. And he was a very good defensive mind. Still, I firmly believe that Trestman is going to be an upgrade over Lovie for several reasons (though only time will tell for sure).
Offense wins in today’s NFL
Trestman is an offensive-minded coach. Now, that doesn’t mean only offensive-minded HCs can have a team that is productive on offense. Bill Belichick, for example, was mainly a defensive guy (though he also started out working with special teams, tight ends and wide receivers). His teams score a lot, and he works well with his QB.
But the League has changed. It used to be that a strong running attack and a solid defense gave you a good chance to make the playoffs. But no more, as teams now win with offense. You need to have a decent defense, to be sure, and of the four remaining teams in the playoffs, all but one has a good defense. But they all score a lot of points, and that is what it takes to win in the league nowadays.
Lovie was an excellent defensive coach, but he ignored the offense, which leads me to my next point …
He will not “outsource” the defense
Look, even if a head coach is an offensive or defensive genius, he still must be held accountable for both sides of the football. It’s fine if they have a specialty, but they need to get involved or they must be able to hire competent coordinators. Lovie did neither.
While he was always involved with the defense—for example, you would often hear that a player, such D.J. Moore, was “in Lovie’s doghouse”—offensive players like Kellen Davis could perform badly and still get on the field. I believe that Trestman’s apparent attention to detail will ensure that he stays in the mix on defense too. Otherwise, what good would it be to fix the offense but have the defense go down the tubes?
This is especially important now that Rod Marinelli is leaving.
He’s on the same page as the GM
There are no specific indications that Lovie wasn’t in tune with former GM Jerry Angelo, but there are things that happened to suggest they didn’t always see eye-to-eye. And Emery obviously didn’t feel that connection with Lovie or he wouldn’t have made a change.
So, if Lovie had remained, he likely wouldn’t have had the kind of working relationship with the current Bears’ GM as Trestman likely will. They are like twin sons of different mothers. That’s critical, since the GM has to get his coach the players he wants and needs.
It ends the offensive coordinator shuffle
Sure, this is yet another system that Cutler needs to get used to, but no matter who is the Bears’ OC (and it is currently Aaron Kromer), Trestman will call the plays, so we won’t have to worry about a mad scientist (Mike Martz) or a dunce (Mike Tice) working with Cutler to call plays. Even if Kromer doesn’t work out, Trestman, being an offensive minded HC, will stay with his system.
Knowing how Cutler can be, he may still end up not liking Trestman, but I believe he will respect him because he knows what he is doing, and he worked with Cutler before Cutler was drafted. Hopefully, it won’t be the start of a defensive coordinator shuffle, but when you’re dealing with the often fragile psyche of an NFL QB, it is better to have continuity on offense.
I would have liked this even more if Marinelli had stayed but only if he wanted to be here. Change is inevitable, so we might as well embrace it.