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Haugh: Coach Marc Trestman has answers for what ails Bears

(MCT) — CHICAGO — Making a strong case for future Bears success like the trained lawyer he is, Marc Trestman methodically worked off note cards the longtime NFL assistant had prepared over the last two decades for this moment.

Never in 22 years of calling plays had Trestman scripted anything like this.

The Bears new coach wore a dapper dark suit and orange tie to his introduction Thursday at Halas Hall and peered at a packed auditorium through bookish eyeglasses that looked like they were borrowed from general manager Phil Emery’s collection. Sweat glistened off Trestman’s forehead and emotion occasionally caught his words. Even the man whose detailed 13-month plan dazzled Emery couldn’t have anticipated the way anxiety might affect him after finally getting what he waited for all those years.

“I’m filled with an incredible sense of humility in becoming the head football coach of the NFL’s founding franchise,” Trestman said.

If Trestman’s first appearance at the lectern represented his opening statement in Chicago’s court of public opinion, substance trumped style. Solid described his performance more than spectacular. But we will need more evidence before knowing what Day 1 means for game days.

More polished than passionate, Trestman sounded like he could pass for Dick Jauron’s younger brother. News conferences with Trestman promise to be more polite and professional but still probably not compelling enough to make anybody set their DVRs.

Whether referring to “the science of football” or coaching “the micro level” of mechanics, Trestman came across as cerebral as advertised. He was guarded enough to resist naming one particular head coach who influenced him, even though this is Trestman’s 13th job. He stayed vague, saying he needed “two or three months” to evaluate defensive personnel even though free agency approaches much sooner.

He reminisced about growing up a Vikings fan and the memorable day in 1966 that George Halas’ Bears visited Minnesota. He showed sincerity Bears employees can expect by correcting a reporter who referred to players as pieces by calling them “valued people.” He showed Canada-dry humor by calling out center Roberto Garza for ordering his book on leadership, “Perseverance,” online at 2 a.m. He mentioned pass protection enough to reinforce it as the Bears’ No. 1 offseason priority and, though Mia Hamm and Nomar Garciaparra might argue, called the quarterback-coach relationship “the No. 1 marriage in sports.”

He never mentioned the Packers. He only pandered when complimenting reporters’ questions.

His most encouraging answer came when Trestman was asked if Jay Cutler was a franchise quarterback. Refreshingly, his careful 86-word response didn’t include the word yes.

“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,” Trestman said.

Asked what he thought of Trestman subtly disagreeing with his previously stated opinion, Emery applauded the call for accountability every Bears player eventually should hear.

“He wants Jay to earn that in his eyes,” Emery said. “I’m good with that.”

His most discouraging answer came when Trestman danced around specifics for the Bears defense. Of all Thursday’s declarations and observations, Trestman’s inability to articulate a defensive plan created the biggest red flag. It left the impression the Bears had hired Lovie Smith’s opposite, a guru on one side of the ball with limited knowledge about the other.

With former defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli turning down a one-year contract extension to stay, Trestman suddenly confronts his first crisis. Trestman was hired over Bruce Arians partly based on a willingness to keep Marinelli for continuity. Now it sounds like square one, with Emery acknowledging the search could delve into the college ranks. Who will run the Bears’ aging defense? Secondary coach Jon Hoke represents the tidiest transitional option but a wide net has been cast.

The good news: Trestman has experience hiring defensive coordinators. That’s also the bad news. In five seasons coaching the Montreal Alouettes, he hired four of them, the fourth after a change in November precipitated by Trestman’s team giving up 27 points per game.

Trestman inherits a potential Top 10 defense. But does he have a plan? Would Trestman dare try converting 4-3 talent into a 3-4 scheme?

“I am open to whatever it takes to stop football teams, but I also know what this football team has done,” Trestman said.

Translated: I don’t know yet.

Finding out will fascinate everybody and dominate at least the next week. But Trestman clearly identified the aspect of his job he expects to be the most fun.

“I get to be the GPS system of the team,” Trestman said.

Undoubtedly, the Bears boldly embarked in a new direction under their Canadian Football League import. It remains too early to know if that’s north.

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