Just this week, the Ravens team website published a story titled Joe Flacco, Marc Trestman, off to great start. Joe Flacco praised the communication from Marc Trestman. He was quoted when talking about his new offensive coordinator,
“We’re not going to have any issues. I think we’re going to be able to be honest with each other. Those are the things that I’m looking forward to. We’ll have an open line of communication and not have one side or the other be afraid to be honest and say what they feel.”
Perfect. I don’t think we would expect Joe to say anything else, or the team to report anything else. In fact, this early in a coach’s tenure, any coach, everything is peaches and cream. But how long can it stay that way between coach and player? I did some scouring to find out the possible downside of the Trestman hire, as the upsides have been well documented.
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Marc Trestman was heavily criticized among the Chicago faithful. From one article I read, he wasn’t given a fair shot right from the start. He didn’t have a mustache, coached long enough in the CFL to be considered Canadian, and brought an offensive mindset to a team with a rich history of defensive prowess from Butkus, to Singletary, on to Urlacher. Trestman was never considered a real Chicago Bear. He wasn’t their type.
It was the good life when Trestman started 3-0 in his tenure as the Bears head coach. But that quickly faded away as they finished 8-8 in his first year. A downgrade from the 10-6 season that got Lovie Smith shown the door. That loving feeling of new hire faded when the “quarterback whisperer” couldn’t get great production out of Jay Cutler, who would become the latest QB to get that big, nine figure contract. It was even more frustrating given the talent that Jay Cutler was surrounded with in Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, and stud draft pick Alshon Jeffery for the last two seasons.
Multiple articles published by CSN Chicago Bears Insider, John Mullin, and ESPN Chicago, Michael C. Wright, cite the same issues regarding Trestman. So I hardly find it to be one man’s biased opinion, considering the sources cover the teams. Why not start with leadership?
Wright published a piece quoting Bears Kicker, Jay Feeley, and his thoughts on Marc Trestman’s lack of leadership.
“I think with Marc Trestman, he was a little awkward when he spoke. So, he really didn’t connect with guys. You can have that as a coach if you have a strong locker room. If you don’t have leaders in the locker room, [and] you don’t have a coach who really inspires, then you end up having a losing season.”
In Mullin’s piece, he cited former Raiders receiver, Tim Brown, who played under Trestman while an assistant under Jon Gruden’s Raiders. He said simply that Trestman was, “not a leader of men.”
His leadership was put to the test when Lions center Dominic Raiola stomped on the ankle of Trestman’s defensive tackle, Ego Ferguson. In his postgame presser you would expect a statement to made, some outcry for your player who was the victim of an intentional act that could have resulted in serious injury.
“I’m not going to comment on that. The NFL has their parameters in how they deal with this. They have a protocol. I respect that. I’ll leave it at that.”
Not exactly the support from a coach I’d want to hear. I mean, speak in clichés, sure, but don’t be a complete robot.
I think the elephant in the room is this. Trestman did not have success with Cutler, despite the immense talent around him. Now the Ravens expect him to do better with Joe Flacco. What do we make about his work with Cutler? In another Wright piece, he quotes Trestman just one week before the Bears head coach ultimately decided to bench his quarterback. Why has the “quarterback whisperer” been having trouble with Cutler?
“I haven’t been able [to coax the best from Cutler] and we haven’t been able to do the things that we want to get done. We’re working towards that. But the answer to that is obvious. I’m trying to give you the most truthful answer and that is, we’ve seen moments of it, but it’s not where we need to go. It’s not where we need to be. But it’s not all about Jay. It’s about our entire offense, working together to get it done.”
Two years and you still aren’t where you want to be? Both Wright and Mullin in their work, cite that they seem confounded about the constant mid-week hype. Good practices, hard work, like where they are going, only to have the team come out completely flat and inept come game time.
Is this a sign of things to come in Baltimore? Off-season hype that Joe Flacco and Marc Trestman are having this great relationship, open communication, only to have September roll around and the game day result suggests something different?
It should also be noted that Jay Cutler was not given the authority to audible out of plays that Trestman calls. Something that has been a hot topic of discussion since day one of the Flacco era under Cam Cameron. Does Flacco not have the authority, or is he bad at reading defenses, has long been a topic of debate. Will Flacco be given the authority to override Trestman’s play call if the defense suggests he should? I’ve long felt that Flacco’s absolute best play was when the Ravens experimented with the up tempo “sugar huddle”, and whenever Flacco is operating in the two minute drill, calling the shots on the fly.
Other highlights of Trestmans demise from Mullin’s piece from CSN Chicago include the following:
- Trestman offered very little in accountability. The team was scheduled to practice in pads, and Brandon Marshall came out without pads. Assistant coach, Chris Harris got heated with Marshall for his blatant disrespect. Trestman did not make Marshall change, nor discipline his star wideout.
- Trestman liked to keep drama in house, and his fall back often, like in the Marshall situation, was that he hadn’t heard, or seen, what was said or done. So he had no idea that Marshall came to practice without pads, on his practice field?
- He would routinely mix up locker assignments, and make players sit with different people at meals so they would get to know each other. This not being the norm as for one, grown men don’t need to be told where to sit, and two, most everyone sits in their positional groups so they can discuss their assignments. This likely doesn’t affect the outcome on the field, it just rubs guys the wrong way.
- He lets star players enjoy star treatment, which alienates them from the rest of the team. Such as letting Lance Briggs skip a day of practice leading up to week 1 because he was opening a restaurant. (Joe Flacco might get a day off here or there to film more great commercials).
- Reputation as a timid coach. He elected in overtime of a game in 2013 to kick a 47 yard FG on 2nd and 7, not wanting to risk a penalty or sack taking them out of range. Robbie Gould missed and the Vikings traveled down field and kicked a game winning FG. Zero faith in his offense to move the ball forward on two more downs to get into higher probability FG range.
- Despite chatter between the GM Phil Emery, and Trestman, about going to a more balanced attack on offense, when game day came, it was never the case. Even early in games, score not a factor, Trestman was throwing the ball two or three times as much as running it.
It sounds like I’m really piling on Trestman here, and I hate that it comes off that way. I don’t want it to, but I felt it necessary to seek out any red flags that got him canned in Chicago. A little bit of a warning if some of these issues arise in Baltimore. Teams with drama rarely succeed. Think over the recent years the Jets, Redskins, Cowboys, 49ers last year. The Patriots seem to be the exception through Aaron Hernandez jailed for murder, or Gronkowski’s hard partying leading to further injuries, or poor trades, now deflategate, they seem to always find a way.
Bottom line, this is John Harbaugh’s team. He is the motivator, the leader. Trestman doesn’t have to try to be something he isn’t. He just has to call a good game, and get the best out of his half of the locker room. The Ravens just need to stay drama-free. We need to see Trestman be a man of his word, that he doesn’t plan on changing the offense that Joe Flacco had his best season in, and the running game was a top ten unit in the league with.
I like the hire. Marc Trestman has said all the right things. The Ravens drafted some players that fit his style. Whether he can bring it on game day seems to be the only question. For the answer, we will just have to wait and see.