Marc Trestman hopes his relationship with quarterback Jay Cutler is more productive than their initial meeting in 2006.
Cutler was looking to fine tune his mechanics before the NFL's Scouting Combine, and Trestman had an impressive resume as a quarterback guru. They met in Raleigh, N.C.
"It was raining," said Trestman, who the Bears hired as their new head coach Wednesday. "We had no facility and no receivers. So we basically sat in a hotel room for two days and stared at each other."
Cutler still wound up being the Broncos' first-round pick (11th overall), and he's been a starter since the final month of his rookie season.
But his production has never measured up to his potential. Despite elite physical skills, Cutler has been an average NFL quarterback. His 81.3 passer rating this season was 20th in the league, and he has 1 playoff win in seven years.
But Trestman learned enough about Cutler seven years ago to be intrigued.
"It was a difficult environment to try to get the most out of somebody," he said. "But I found out he was tough, he was smart and he loved football."
Fast forward a few years. Trestman, the quarterback whisperer, "can't wait to get my hands on" Cutler. Other NFL offensive coordinators have probably had the same thoughts about the enigmatic QB, but for nefarious reasons.
Trestman sat down with Cutler for about 90 minutes during his second interview for his new job early in the week.
"He's in tune to where he is and where he wants to go," the coach said. "He understands where his strengths and his weaknesses are, and he wants to go forward. I think he's ready. And we're going to try to put (in) a system of football and put people around him that can help him be the player that he wants to be."
If it doesn't happen next season, Cutler's career will probably continue in another city. His contract expires in a year.
But it seems he's in an ideal situation, having a head coach whose passion is quarterback play and who has a long and impressive resume as an offensive play-caller and teacher. Trestman places the highest priority on the quarterback position and the quarterback-coach relationship.
"The No. 1 marriage in all of sports is the marriage between his quarterback and his coach," Trestman said. "It starts there. There has to be a connection and an element of professional trust.
"We don't have that yet, certainly, but there are indications we got started in the right place. We are going to have two passionate guys in the room trying to win games for the Chicago Bears, and that's a pretty good start."
General manager Phil Emery has referred to Cutler as a "franchise quarterback." Trestman has not, although he was given that opportunity twice during his introductory press conference Thursday.
Instead, Trestman said: "Jay Cutler is a guy who loves football. Jay Cutler is a guy who is willing to learn. In my very short time with him, (he) wants to do everything he can to help this franchise and please our amazing fans. We're going to work one day at a time in a proactive way with a sense of urgency to get him to be the guy he wants to be and we want him to be."
Cutler has clearly been irked in the past by poor pass protection. He was sacked 88 times in his first two seasons with the Bears, more than anyone in the league. Trestman is acutely aware of the challenges of the position and the importance of giving the quarterback a clean pocket.
"It's the toughest job in all of sports," he said. "On the offensive side it starts and ends with the quarterback. We've got to protect our quarterback and we've got to keep him safe."
Cutler was especially frustrated by former offensive coordinator Mike Martz's refusal to allow him to change plays at the line of scrimmage in 2010 and '11. Trestman will give him more leeway.
"The quarterback is going to have the keys to the car," Trestman said. "He's in the best situation before the snap of the ball to get us in the best play.
"Jay is not a first-year player coming in. He's an experienced NFL quarterback, and a very intelligent one. There are times we will allow him to (audible) because it's in the best interest of the offense and the team to do it. There are other plays we don't want him to. But we're going to put him in position where he's protecting the football when he's running the play."
He's also got to protect the offense while he's behind the wheel. If he wraps it around a tree next season, he'll probably be driving a different model in 2014.