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updated: 2/3/2013 9:13 PM

Bears' Trestman might be next great surprise

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  • Marc Trestman was a gutsy, unconventional choice by the Bears to lead their organization, but San Francisco made a similar decision with Jim Harbaugh and it's worked out quite well for the 49ers.

      Marc Trestman was a gutsy, unconventional choice by the Bears to lead their organization, but San Francisco made a similar decision with Jim Harbaugh and it's worked out quite well for the 49ers.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer


If you asked Jim Harbaugh, he would say he's exactly where he should be at this point in his life.

And given his lineage, it now makes all the sense in the world.

But 25 years ago, it's not the kind of prediction anyone around the Bears would have made with a straight face.

Sure, his dad was big in the business, and Harbaugh always overachieved as a quarterback, always battled to the end with all he had. He was tough as nails, but he never struck me as a future NFL head coach.

I had the opportunity to speak with Harbaugh a few times in Platteville his first couple years in the NFL and remember wondering if he fully understood the position -- or the burden -- he was about to accept in Chicago.

I was also a season-ticket holder during his Bears career and -- aside from the Mike Ditka incident -- remember almost nothing about his time here, except for that he wasn't very good and got hit a lot.

So when he was hired by the University of San Diego as head coach in 2004 -- after spending two years as QBs coach next to offensive coordinator Marc Trestman in Oakland -- it seemed a bit of an odd choice.

When Stanford rushed to sign him three years later, it looked like a gamble.

And when he left for the 49ers, it appeared as though both he and the team had jumped the gun.

But he has succeeded at every stop and I'm glad to have been wrong about all of it, because Harbaugh -- as nuts as he often appeared -- has become a terrific NFL head coach.

His quarterback decision this year is as gutsy a call as you will ever see in the NFL, and it's an unpleasant reminder of how conservative the approach has been around these parts the last two decades.

That's what is so refreshing about the Bears' hire of Trestman. It says a lot about George McCaskey and Phil Emery that they went for such a high-risk, high-reward option.

Yes, he could turn out to be a disaster, just like Harbaugh's pick of Colin Kaepernick could have been. But Kaepernick got the 49ers to the Super Bowl and turned out to be the stuff of genius, just as Trestman might turn out to be for Emery.

His biggest task will be maximizing Jay Cutler's ability, something no one has been able to do, but Trestman and Emery have much more than just Cutler on their plate.

So while they probably kept an eye on the Super Bowl Sunday, rest assured their thoughts were far from the contest by the time the confetti fell.

The second-year GM and first-year coach have some big decisions to make, including how they intend to approach 2013.

Only three coaches in their first year with a new team have ever won the Super Bowl, and two -- George Seifert ('89 Niners) and Don McCafferty ('70 Colts) -- had been with their teams a very long time. The other, Jon Gruden ('02 Bucs), inherited a team that had been to the playoffs the previous three seasons, and Gruden had been an NFL head coach the previous four years.

So three first-year coaches in 46 years doesn't suggest the Bears should have very high hopes for 2013, and their vision is probably more long term.

That being the case, decisions on players like Brian Urlacher and Devin Hester, among others, should be fairly simple. Urlacher says he'll come back for cheap, but how does that help the Bears?

Even if the Bears believe Urlacher is the best they can do at the position in 2013, which is doubtful, wouldn't they be better served putting in place the player they believe will be there for many years to come?

In fact, that should be their thinking about every position as Emery and Trestman approach their first season together.

Trying to win and plan for the future is not always mutually exclusive, and if they can do both at the same time, all the better, but one would assume at this point that Emery knows there are many needs, and putting the team in a position to compete is certainly more important than keeping fan favorites or making players happy and comfortable.

The fact that Emery fired Lovie Smith is proof enough that he doesn't care about players' feelings, and that's a big step forward.

Meanwhile, another Super Bowl champ has been crowned and the Bears stand at 27 years and counting.

Is Marc Trestman the man to get them back there?

Well, whatever you think of Trestman thus far, Jim Harbaugh is all the evidence you need that preconceived notions don't often match the results.

Successful NFL head coaches come in all shapes, sizes and colors -- and sometimes they're even nuts.

•Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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