Thursday, May 15, 2014

Genius Bill Walsh and Smart Guy Marc Trestman

Bill Walsh Was Never Defeated by Loss

You have to laugh a little when you read  up on the life of Bill Walsh as we did when we researched his football life for our latest book, Pillars of the NFL.  There is no doubt that Walsh was a very smart guy, but he was also a very tough guy.  Walsh certainly was an excellent strategist who worked extremely well with quarterbacks.  One of the qualities that Walsh had that most coaches today either can't or don't possess was a patient kind of judgment.  He judged college players based on their potential and he was willing to take a flyer on a guy who was inconsistent in college if he saw great talent demonstrated.  He didn't focus on an athlete's mistakes the way Americans voters view political candidates--he looked at their good side and then determined what they could accomplish if properly coached and encouraged.

Walsh drafted Joe Montana and he was willing to help him develop into a first-class performer.  But Walsh was a complex man.  He showed patience with Montana, but he was also very tough on him once Montana became a star.

Walsh was also a fighter--literally.  When young, he was an excellent boxer and he could handle himself very well.  As millions looked out on Walsh in his country club attire on the 49ers' sideline, they saw the genius, but they did not see the boxer. But he was both.  He was a physically tough, smart guy. But Walsh was something else--he was also a tortured soul who felt criticism strongly.  Every imperfection of his team and its players seemed to reflect back on him.  He also did not like having to be tough on his players, but he believed it was absolutely necessary.  When Walsh created the 49ers dynasty from 1979-1989, he had some very high moments and some very low ones as well.  His first two seasons were awful.  The 49ers lost eight games in a row in 1980 and he remembered feeling like he should quit.  In 1981, his 49ers won the Super Bowl--incredible!  But the following year, they went 3-6 in a strike-shortened season.  Was he really a genius some asked?  The 49ers got back on task and before Walsh retired in 1989, he had three Super Bowl wins under his belt. Although Walsh could get all wound up in criticism and failure,  the fighter in him saw to it that he battled his way through it.  He was never defeated by loss.

Marc Trestman Faces Good Times and Bad

In Chicago, Bears fans don't really know much about Marc Trestman.  Most of the moves being made in player acquisition and team building place General Manager Phil Emory at center stage.  But if championships follow, there will some kind of great moniker that will be wrapped around Trestman.  Trestman had ambitions to play college quarterback, he was behind Tony Dungy at the University of Minnesota.  He transferred to Minnesota State for his senior year.  Walsh wanted to be a top college quarterback.  Walsh played quarterback at San Mateo Community College, but when he transferred to San Jose State, he was moved to end. In some ways the disappointments both these coaches experienced helped them develop into excellent quarterback coaches.

Trestman has had many years of experience working in the NFL.  Before becoming a head coach, Trestman worked with quarterbacks Bernie Kosar, Scott Mitchell, Jake Plummer, and Rich Gannon.  He gets excellent grades for working with each of these players.  Before becoming a head coach, Walsh worked with quarterbacks Virgil Carter, Ken Anderson, and Dan Fouts.  He gets excellent grades for working with each of these. 

When Walsh felt like he was stuck in the role of an NFL Assistant, he demonstrated his head coaching skills at Stanford and he was hired as head coach of the 49ers.  Trestman moved on to Canada as head coach of the Montreal Alouettes.  In his five years as head coach of the Mountreal Alouettes, he was in the Grey Cup (their Super Bowl) three times and won it twice.  The Bears hired Trestman as head coach in early 2013.

Trestman is different than Walsh.   Rather than get wound up by his setbacks and having to fight with every once of strength to dig his way out like Bill Walsh, Trestman talks about facing setbacks as they happen and not being bowled over by them.  For Trestman, how you react to setbacks is part of life just as how your react to wins. 

Winning championships in the NFL requires many things to line up just right.  Whether that happens under Trestman will depend upon some things that are outside of his control.  Bears fans are hoping for Walsh-like results.  Whether the Chicago media will adorn Trestman with a "Genius" moniker is doubtful.  This is after tall, the city of broad shoulders, the former hog butcher of the world, and the home of "dis, dat, dese, and dose."  How bout we just call him a "smart guy."