Andy MacPhail introduced the concept to Chicago sports on the day he became president/CEO of the Cubs in 1994.
MacPhail said that he would hire a general manager with “academic intellect.” Ed Lynch, a former major-league pitcher with a law degree, got the job.
Nice try, but three GMs later the Cubs still haven’t won a World Series.
Thursday the Bears introduced head coach Marc Trestman, who has been a member of the Florida bar (no, that doesn’t mean Johnny’s Bloodshot Eye in Fort Lauderdale).
As owners of the Bears, the McCaskeys have given the impression for three decades that they would like a head coach with “academic intellect.”
The family never seemed to appreciate Mike Ditka as the snarling and growling, rough and tough face of the franchise.
Da Coach reeked of Da Jock. His post-coaching career is punctuated with business sense, but he still sells the football Neanderthal image.
Ever since then-president Mike McCaskey, the Ivy Leaguer, fired Ditka 20 years ago, the Bears have been looking for a sort of a football philosopher.
Dave Wannstedt was more coach than intellect. Dick Jauron was more intellect than coach. Lovie Smith wasn’t enough of either to win enough games.
Enter Marc Trestman, registered egghead.
If nothing else, this guy looks the part, whatever the part of “academic intellect” looks like. He might as well have walked into his introductory news conference wearing a tweed sports jacket with patches on the elbows.
Trestman made reference to “the science of football ... the science of our game.”
The new coach in town was like the new guest lecturer on campus. Trestman’s lengthy opening statement came off meticulously prepared cards like a carefully crafted lesson plan might.
The Bears have a management of “academic intellects” now. Trestman looks professorial. So does Emery, though he joked that he was a physical education major while his coach has a law degree.
Emery was like a proud parent when he said, “(Trestman) has a high level of intellect.”
So today in sports more owners are pursuing leaders who have textbook smarts as well as playbook smarts. If this had to happen, football is the appropriate place, it being the most complex of all our major team games.
The idea wasn’t new even when MacPhail mentioned it two decades ago. Bill Veeck, then the White Sox owner, went there in 1979 but more by accident than design.
Veeck named Tony La Russa, who also had a law degree. Both he and Trestman each are smart enough to qualify as attorneys and smarter yet to practice sports instead of law.
Now the intrigue is whether Trestman can become as successful a head coach as La Russa was a manager. By all accounts, Trestman is as intense, passionate and competitive as La Russa was but the comparison ends at the beginning: The Sox hired La Russa when he was 34 years old and the Bears gave Trestman his first chance as an NFL head coach at age 57.
Trestman’s new bosses — Emery, club president Ted Phillips and chairman George McCaskey — all used the word “intellect” while discussing his attributes.
Make mistake no about it, however: Marc Trestman’s resume confirms him as a football coach first and “academic intellect” second.
Give him enough growling, snarling, rough, tough jocks dumb enough to collide with each other for three hours and he just might one day win a Super Bowl.
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