Like Walsh, NFL took its time to promote Trestman

  • After 17 years in the NFL and five years with the Montreal Alouettes, 57-year-old Mark Trestman is the new head coach of the Chicago Bears.

    After 17 years in the NFL and five years with the Montreal Alouettes, 57-year-old Mark Trestman is the new head coach of the Chicago Bears. AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz/July 201

Updated 1/16/2013 4:59 PM

What took so long?

For me that is the most intriguing question concerning the Bears' search for a head coach.


Not what took so long for general manager Phil Emery to settle on Marc Trestman as the Bears' coach?

More like what took so long for Marc Trestman to become an NFL head coach?

Since the early 1980s Trestman has been considered a good coach, an expert on offense and a solid human being.

Yet Trestman bounced from job to job as an NFL assistant with eight teams over 17 seasons, to a couple stops in the college ranks and most recently to five years as the head coach of the Montreal Alouettes.

Trestman even took three years off from football in the early 1990s. As good an endorsement as any is that the San Francisco 49ers welcomed him back to the NFL in 1995 as their offensive coordinator.

San Francisco and other teams compiled a lot of yards under Trestman. He also was successful tutoring quarterbacks. He was an assistant on a national championship team in college and a team that reached the Super Bowl in the pros.

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Despite that background, no NFL team hired Trestman as head coach.

So, seriously, what took so long?

Someone from the Bay Area familiar with Trestman's tenure with the 49ers guessed, "He must not interview well."Clearly, finally, that wasn't a problem this time with the Bears.

At age 57, Trestman, who wrote a book titled "Perseverance," is relatively old to receive an initial opportunity to be an NFL head coach.

However, that doesn't necessarily mean that the Bears didn't hire the league's next great head coach.

A precedent is Bill Walsh, although he was 10 years younger when the 49ers named him head coach than Trestman is now.

Walsh was considered a bright offensive mind, even more so than Trestman is. But teams kept bypassing him as a head coach.

One theory proposed to me is that Walsh had worked for the Cincinnati Bengals and for some reason Paul Brown, the franchise's founder, "sandbagged" his candidacy around the league.


After San Francisco hired Walsh, he became one of the greatest and most innovative head coaches in NFL history.

Does Trestman have that in him? Nobody knows for sure any more than anybody knew for sure when the 49ers took a chance on Walsh.

Just as Walsh was, Trestman has been described as being as much a professor as a coach and more a sophisticate than, well, whatever Mike Ditka was.

If Trestman is half as successful as a head coach as Walsh was, the Bears should win at least a couple Super Bowls during the next decade.

Walsh demonstrated his genius by installing Joe Montana as his quarterback, and they became one of the most dynamic coach-quarterback tandems ever.

One major difference between then and now is that Montana was a young, impressionable QB that Walsh could mold as an extension of himself on the field.

Trestman inherits Jay Cutler, who is approaching his eighth NFL season with set ways that offensive coaches have had difficulty improving.

The Bears have assigned Trestman to develop Cutler in his image, if that's possible, the way Walsh developed Montana in his.

Any comparison of Trestman to Walsh is comforting as the Bears embark on a new era.

Otherwise we would have to dwell on the curious question of why it took Marc Trestman so long to become an NFL head coach.

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