CHICAGO – If anyone knows what a recent Marc Trestman offense looks like, it’s Pat Meyer.
Meyer, 40, spent last season working alongside Trestman as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach of the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League. Eight days after the Bears hired Trestman as head coach in mid-January, Meyer followed his former boss south of the border as the Bears’ new assistant offensive line coach.
So, about that Trestman offense…
“Exciting. Up tempo. Smart,” Meyer said. “All of those.”
Of course, none of that can happen without a reliable offensive line.
For the past few seasons, the offensive line has been the biggest trouble spot on the Bears. And by biggest, I don’t mean heaviest or hairiest or smelliest, although most of those descriptions also hold true for the team’s collection of 300-pounders.
Instead, unfortunately, I mean that the Bears’ offensive line has been the most disappointing, most frustrating, most glaring weakness of any position group on the team. It’s great to rank among the league leaders in most offensive team statistics, but back-to-back-to-back top 10 finishes for most sacks allowed is not one of those desired categories.
It will be up to Trestman and his coaching staff to straighten out the line.
Can they accomplish that mission when so many other recent coaches have tried and failed? I think so, but it’s impossible to know for sure until the regular season kicks off next fall.
One thing is certain. It won’t be easy.
When we last saw the Bears, the offensive line consisted of J’Marcus Webb at left tackle, James Brown at left guard, Roberto Garza at center, Chris Spencer at right guard and Jonathan Scott at right tackle. Gabe Carimi had been bumped to a backup role because of inconsistent play, while Edwin Williams served as the backup guard and center.
Yes, expect Bears general manager Phil Emery to seek upgrades on the offensive line via free agency (which starts March 12) and the NFL draft (which runs from April 25-27). But Emery will be on a budget after placing the franchise tag on defensive tackle Henry Melton, and even if he did have gobs of money to spend, most available linemen come with risks.
It’s possible that the Bears could turn mostly to familiar faces on the offensive line.
That seems as if it would be fine with Trestman.
“It’s our job to develop these players to the best of our abilities,” said Trestman, who coordinated top offenses with the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders before heading to Montreal. “We think we’ve got the coaches to do that. Development is a big part of coaching in our league, and we expect to do that.”
Trestman will spend much of his time focusing on the quarterbacks – see: Cutler, Jay – as he tries to improve a group that finished No. 28 in total offense in 2012. Unless Trestman figures out a way to clone himself, he won’t be able to be in the quarterbacks meeting room and the offensive line meeting room at the same time.
That’s why Trestman hired Aaron Kromer from the New Orleans Saints to be his offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. It’s also why he brought Meyer with him from Canada.
Together, the group hopes to lead a disciplined, dependable offensive line.
No matter who starts, Kromer said, he wanted a unit that far exceeded five individuals.
“The personality would be a mentally tough unit that would be accountable to each other,” Kromer said. “That’s what you’re looking for.
“There are all different styles of talent and types of talent that people have, but it’s an accountability to each other, and it’s a mental and physical toughness that they become tougher as five than they were as one.”
So far, the coaching staff has been allergic to discussing individual players.
Webb is a question mark at left tackle, and he didn’t help his cause by being arrested downstate on drug charges that later were dropped. Brown was a 2012 undrafted rookie who was the definition of raw, and Carimi’s career path is anyone’s guess at this point.
Kromer said he had success with starting rookies in the past and would be willing to do so again. He said he considered only a player’s on-field ability, not their college résumé.
“I don’t care where they came from,” Kromer said. “I don’t care what position we’re talking about. It doesn’t matter whether they got drafted in the first [round] or they were a college free agent. If they play and the produce, those are the guys you should play.”
When it comes to first impressions, Kromer earns high marks.
Like Trestman, he preaches the importance of teaching and developing players. And, like, Trestman, he easily can speak in detail about offensive strategy and blocking schemes.
But do you know who else was known as a no-nonsense coach who excelled as a teacher of offensive linemen? That would be Mike Tice. We all know how that ended.
So the Bears’ new group of coaches will have to prove that they can make a difference.
And the Bears’ linemen will have to prove that they can play.
And, in the meantime, the rest of us will have to wait six more months for football.
• Shaw Media sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.