Brandon Marshall explains why Marc Trestman didn’t work out with Bears

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There were many surprising developments that took place off the football field for the Chicago Bears, but the biggest one might be that former head coach Marc Trestman hosts a leadership podcast – and he had Brandon Marshall on as his latest guest.

Trestman is now an adjunct professor and hosts The Leadership Gameplan, a podcast from the University of Miami School of Law that discusses leadership strategies with various guests. In the most recent episode, Marshall joined Trestman to discuss his own leadership endeavors, both on the field and off.

As it turns out, Trestman and Marshall have a tremendous amount of respect for one another after spending two years together in Chicago. Their tenure was marred by blowout losses, fighting within the locker room, and controversies that have many fans believing it was the worst era in team history.

Now years later, they sat down to talk leadership but also peeled back the curtain during their days in Chicago to explain why some things worked and others didn’t. When it came to Trestman’s leadership style, Marshall actually said he was ahead of his time and that’s why it didn’t work out.

“You were ahead of your time and if there’s one thing you could potentially have done differently is understand that. But I don’t know if you could have,” Marshall told his former coach. “The old way of doing thing in sports was ‘hey, I’ve got these four leaders, you guys are going to do everything…you guys run the show.’ And you came in and you brought in what everyone is adopting now.”

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When Trestman was hired back in 2013, he put a major emphasis on leadership and what he brought to the table as head coach. He preferred to lead from the back of the meeting rooms, invited countless guest speakers for motivation, encouraged players to speak their minds, and never cursed them out. For some locker rooms, especially in 2021, that might have been the right approach. But not back then as Marshall explained further.

The receiver went on to say because of how the locker room was constructed following the firing of Lovie Smith, Trestman’s message fell on deaf ears.

“I think that was a tough thing for us in Chicago was that locker room was so tight,” Marshall said. “You had Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, [Charles] Peanut Tillman, these guys that were used to one way of thinking, one way of approaching it. And when something new was introduced, it was like a shock to their system and that was the toughest thing.

“You probably spent maybe that entire first year just getting guys to buy in and believe because football is football….the way you set up our philosophy was ‘okay, we know there’s going to be problems but I’m going to give you guys the solutions’ and some of you guys can do that, but structurally, because it was so counterculture to what those guys were used to, it took us a year to kind of just get guys to buy in. We’re talking about big personalities.”

Heading into Trestman’s first season, the team had just said goodbye to Urlacher but still had Briggs and Tillman, who had played under a respected and defensive coach in Smith for nine years. Now they were under an offensive-minded coach who was a stark contrast from Smith.

While Trestman’s arrival saw an offensive explosion as they averaged 381 yards per game in 2013, the defense suffered greatly. Once the calling card of Bears football, the defense fell to historic lows as the Bears trudged through an 8-8 season in year one before bottoming out at 5-11 in year two.

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Though Marshall enjoyed success in Trestman’s offense, posting over 2,000 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns in 29 games, the two seemed to butt heads quite a bit, with Marshall having outbursts in the locker room, the sideline, and in practice over certain issues. But the two were able to laugh it off, with Marshall apologizing to Trestman.

“I used to get so upset with you, this is when I was young Brandon. But I get it now, though so first off, I apologize for all the stress I caused,” Marshall said.

“I had a full head of hair when I got to Chicago,” Trestman quipped.

Both Marshall and Trestman moved on from the Bears after 2014, with Trestman bouncing around the NFL as a coordinator, then moving back to the CFL, and finishing his football career as a head coach of the XFL’s Tampa Bay Vipers.

Marshall, meanwhile, was traded to the New York Jets where he spent two seasons, then joined the New York Giants and Seattle Seahawks before retiring after the 2018 season. He amassed over 12,000 receiving yards and 80+ touchdowns throughout his 13-year career. Now, he is the founder and owner of House of Athlete, a lifestyle and wellness brand for athletes.

The Trestman and Marshall era is well in the rearview mirror, but it’s still one of the most controversial periods in Bears history. Hearing Trestman and Marshall talk about leadership was surprising, but are they correct in thinking the philosophy was just too early for that time? Or was Trestman always doomed to fail, no matter what era he coached in?

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