Marc Trestman was hired by Phil Emery and the Chicago Bears to turn the team into a perennial playoff participant, something Lovie Smith was never able to do in nine years. The main avenue to reaching the postseason for the Bears will be a revamped offense that has been lacking in Chicago since... well, its been awhile. Trestman needs to turn Jay Cutler from an average quarterback into at least an above-average one (and hopefully a really good one), and one of Trestman's biggest tasks will be finding a solution to the Bears' woeful offensive line play. Luckily for Chicago, he's seen his fair share of poor line play during his NFL coaching career, and understands how to fix it.
Trestman spent fourteen seasons in the NFL as either a quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator. During that time, he was a part of some successful offenses in Cleveland, San Francisco, and Oakland, while being a part of some not so great offensive units as well (his final year in Arizona and Oakland, especially). His team's offensive production swayed between great and mediocre - next week we'll look at just how well quarterbacks under his tutelage performed - but there was one troubling constant with those teams: their inability to keep a quarterback healthy.
Only four of Trestman's fourteen seasons as an OC or QBs coach featured a quarterback that started all sixteen games. His first year in 1987 as quarterback coach was arguably the worst, as the creamsicled Tampa Bay Blecchs had five, yes five, quarterbacks throw at least two passes en-route to a 4-11 record. The next year Trestman was in Cleveland, and the Browns won ten games despite only having Bernie Kosar start nine. His last year in the NFL as an offensive coordinator was 2003 with the Raiders, who had the misfortune of having Rick Mirer start eight games for them (Rich Gannon had seven starts, guess who had the other). In fact, in Trestman's time with seven different franchises, only once did he leave without a starting QB missing time, and that was his one year in Detroit with Scott Mitchell.
This isn't to say that Trestman is to blame for all the injured quarterbacks, because as we've seen with Jay Cutler, sometimes guys just get hurt, and you can't really blame the quarterback, the offensive line, or the wide receiver that slipped and caused the interception. As an offensive coordinator, Trestman's quarterbacks didn't endure exorbitant sack numbers; his offenses gave up between 33-43 sacks over seven years, with the one outlier being a fifty sack season endured by Jake Plummer in 1998. Cutler over the past three years has been sacked 45, 49, and 56 times. The worst sack percentage amongst Trestman's offenses was 8.3%, which happens to be that fifty sack season with Plummer. The Bears over the past three seasons have sack percentages of 8.3 last year, 9.4 in 2011, and 10.7 in 2010.
In 2009, under the direction of Ron Turner's version of the West Coast offense, Cutler was sacked 35 times (at a sack rate of 5.9%). That was also the last time Cutler started all sixteen regular season games. When Marc Trestman took over the Montreal Alouettes in 2008, he learned his lesson from his NFL experiences and made his number one objection keeping the quarterback healthy and on the field. No matter who the quarterback is, if the offensive line is allowing QB hits and your starting QB is hurt, you are in trouble. Trestman took a team that had allowed 68 sacks the previous season, adjusted the blocking scheme, and allowed only 22 sacks in his first year with almost the identical group of blockers.
The situation in Chicago is nothing new for Marc Trestman: a talented quarterback which he can mold, but also figure out a way to keep him healthy and on the field for all sixteen games. Trestman suffered through years of watching his starting quarterbacks writhing on the ground and being attended to by medical staff. In his first year as a head coach, he took a terrible line and turned it into a great one, and his quarterback played at an incredibly high level because of it. If he can replicate that in Chicago, then he'll have the Bears on the right path back to the playoffs.