In the grand scheme of things, Marc Trestman is merely a blip on the Chicago Bears radar.
After the Bears hit rock bottom in Green Bay on Sunday night, and Trestman followed up the loss with a clueless press conference, most fans would have been fine if he announced his resignation instead.
Considering how quickly the wheels have fallen off in 2014, it’s certainly fair to want a new head coach. Long gone are memories of the Bears’ 3-0 start in Trestman’s first season, and so is the substantial optimism that blossomed from their second-ranked offense.
At this point, it’s fairly obvious Marc Trestman isn’t cut out to be head coach of the Chicago Bears. In fact, that job should be in the hands of Arizona Cardinals head coach, Bruce Arians.
Trestman wasn’t the right guy to begin with, so it’s not entirely his fault. In the big picture, Marc Trestman didn’t pass on Bruce Arians.
Technically, General Manager Phil Emery did.
It would be easy to blame the Trestman hire on Emery. After all, it falls directly under his job description — and he was in charge of the extensive search that landed on Trestman two Januarys ago. At least on the surface he was.
Dan Bickley of AZ Central wrote a piece on the Cardinals lucking out with Arians, because he interviewed in Chicago first. The below excerpt highlights where things went wrong with the Bears:
“With Marc Trestman under fire in Chicago, Bears fans are currently wondering how their organization passed on an impact coach like Arians, who rose to stardom a few hours away in Indianapolis, who is cast in the George Halas-Mike Ditka archetype that Chicagoans adore.
So how did a perfect marriage never happen?
“It seemed awkward in Chicago because they wanted me to keep some of their (assistant coaches), which wasn’t going to happen,” Arians said.
According to multiple sources, there were many forces at work.
The Bears wanted Arians to do one thing: fix quarterback Jay Cutler. They desperately wanted to keep Rod Marinelli as defensive coordinator, believing that side of that ball needed no reform. That was a pipe dream from the start, as Marinelli was extremely close to the fired Lovie Smith and wasn’t going to remain in Chicago under any circumstance.
Along the way, a high-ranking Bears official fell in love with Trestman…”
– Dan Bickley, azcentral
Most general managers aren’t referred to as a “high-ranking official.”
So if you think that Phil Emery knowingly chose Marc Trestman over the layup, Bruce Arians, then you haven’t been paying attention.
Of the numerous issues present in the Bears organization, Emery isn’t the biggest one. He’s drafted starters Alshon Jeffery, Kyle Long and Jordan Mills in the last three seasons alone; and early returns on 2014 draftees Kyle Fuller, Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton look promising. During his first stint in Chicago, he had a hand in drafting Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, Tommie Harris and Nathan Vasher.
Emery also traded for Brandon Marshall, and he hit on free agent signings Willie Young, Matt Slauson, Jermon Bushrod, Jay Ratliff and Martellus Bennett. At the end of the day, Phil Emery knows football.
His boss however, does not.
That boss, of course, is Ted Phillips, President and CEO of the Chicago Bears. If you’re unfamiliar with who the hell Ted Phillips is, then don’t worry – that’s the root of the problem.
Ted Phillips started with the Bears organization in 1983 as team controller, a fancy term for an upper level accountant. He continued to climb the financial ladder behind the scenes, and by 1999 that climb peaked at his current role.
Despite being the first non-George Halas descendant to be named president, it’s not surprising Phillips got the position.
When George “Papa Bear” Halas (principal owner and de facto president) passed away in 1983, the only remaining heir was daughter, Virginia Halas McCaskey. She assumed majority ownership, and her son Michael McCaskey became team president.
One of the last things Halas did as owner was hire his former player Mike Ditka as head coach in 1982. Just a year later, Michael McCaskey was in charge — and he clashed with Ditka until firing him after 11 seasons. Seven of those seasons had double digit wins, and four brought playoff victories.
Yeah, Michael McCaskey doesn’t know too much about football either.
Meanwhile, Ted Phillips was quietly doing everything asked of him since he joined the organization in 1983. So naturally, when the incompetent McCaskey was relieved of his duties in 1999 — the club turned to Phillips.
Rather than pursuing an external solution, the team kept the status quo. They hired from within, assigning Philips as the puppet president who would say ‘yes’ to their money-making agenda.
Phillips hired Jerry Angelo as GM in 2001, and extended his contract in both 2003 and 2006. One of the few things Angelo, i.e. the Bears, got right was hiring coach Lovie Smith in 2004. But even after back-to-back playoff appearances and a Super Bowl run, the team was difficult in extending Smith’s extremely cheap contract in 2007.
Five seasons later, he was fired with 81 wins and three playoff appearances. But after all, that’s what happens when a puppet who doesn’t know football follows orders from clueless ownership.
By extending Angelo’s contract twice, regardless of his rather awful drafting history, Phillips verified that the McCaskeys’ agenda doesn’t prioritize winning above revenue.
Optimism grew when Angelo was finally fired in 2011, but the hiring of Phil Emery didn’t mean what many fans hoped it meant. While certainly an improvement, Emery’s impact will be limited as long as the Bears’ royal family is in place. How exactly?
Let’s go back to the Trestman hire.
“Along the way, a high-ranking Bears official fell in love with Trestman.”
In other words, Ted ‘Puppet’ Phillips fell in love with Marc Trestman, because the McCaskeys did.
But why him? Why Trestman?
Similar to his predecessor Smith, Trestman’s demeanor is notably stoic. I wouldn’t go as far as calling him ‘submissive,’ but Marc Trestman’s personality definitely isn’t one to challenge authority.
Ergo, he’s fine with keeping the status quo.
Just like Lovie Smith, Marc Trestman wouldn’t threaten the long-standing and outdated structure of the Chicago Bears. Essentially, he’s the offensive version of Smith — specialists on one side of the ball who don’t express much emotion. The only difference is, Smith was a good head coach.
“Arians, who rose to stardom a few hours away in Indianapolis, who is cast in the George Halas-Mike Ditka archetype that Chicagoans adore.”
Bruce Arians’ demeanor is far from stoic, and the same goes for George Halas and Mike Ditka. For the same reason Michael McCaskey wanted to get rid of Ditka before he won the Super Bowl, the team wanted Marc Trestman over the electric Bruce Arians.
“According to multiple sources, there were many forces at work.”
Think Emery had some trouble getting Ted Phillips, and thus Virginia McCaskey, to sign off on hiring Arians?
“Many forces at work” is a clear sign of a front office versus ownership mess, which is exactly what the Bears have had since 1983. Ownership also loved Marc Trestman because he was cheap compared to Arians.
That sounds a lot like the resistance to give Lovie Smith a raise from his lowest-in-the-NFL contract back in 2007.
It also sounds a lot like a story my uncle, former Bears offensive tackle Keith Van Horne, told me about the end of his career.
After starting for 12 straight years in Chicago (’81-’92), he started the first three games of his final season before missing the next three with an injury.
When he came back healthy, his job had been taken without notice. The coaching staff said it was to get an honest look at a younger (and worse) player; but my uncle would later find out it was done on orders from upstairs to avoid paying incentives in the final year of his contract.
Another story he shared illustrates exactly what Bickley meant by “multiple forces at work.” Happy with quarterback Jim McMahon, coach Ditka was eyeing either a skill position or defensive player to take in the first round of the 1987 NFL Draft. But before he could, Mike McCaskey (not a fan of McMahon) busted into the war room, demanding they select Michigan QB Jim Harbaugh.
In a nutshell, that is the McCaskeys’ agenda.
Keep the status quo, and don’t spend money in the “wrong” places.
Shuffle head coaches and GM’s to take blame for the big decisions that go wrong.
And win or lose, make sure we’re making money.
Since George Halas passed away, the status quo is all that has mattered. And for the McCaskeys, there’s no reason to change that status quo. In the 31 seasons Virginia McCaskey has been majority owner of the Chicago Bears, the team has hired two good head coaches, and fired them both.
In those 31 seasons, the hierarchy hasn’t changed much.
For 31 years, two puppet presidents and some combination of Virginia’s 11 children have effectively run the organization.
A family business in its truest (and ugliest) form – the Chicago Bears have the most outdated and out-of-touch ownership in football, and maybe all of sports. Until that changes, mistakes like hiring Marc Trestman will continue to pile up.
Because when all you care about is keeping the status quo, history is bound to repeat itself.