When the 4-0 New Orleans Saints come to town this Sunday, they will be bringing the most difficult test to date for Marc Trestman’s Chicago Bears.
In part, because of how good they are. In part, because he was there at the beginning as these Saints were engineered.
And, in part, because he actually contributed to the success they’ve earned under coach Sean Payton.
“You know this is one of those weeks where there’s a handful of players and coaches, but coaches specifically - Aaron and Marc - that I’ve had a chance to work with and know and have good friendships with,” Payton said.
The feeling is mutual.
Trestman hired his offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, Aaron Kromer, from Payton and this Saints team just 8 months ago. In fact, Kromer was the interim head coach of the Saints for the first six games of 2012, when Payton was suspended for the season because of Bountygate.
The bond between Trestman and Payton is not well documented.
“No. 1, it was more about a friendship between Sean and myself,” Trestman said. “When I was out of football , I wound up spending some time with him, and we used to do that when he was a coordinator with the Giants. We’d go to symposiums and have lunch and talk football.
“When he invited me to come down [New Orleans], it was an opportunity to have some dignity in my career. I had just been let go at N.C. State, and I was sitting out a year. He invited me down and really showed professional respect. It was a great learning time for me, and it was also a good time to watch Sean be a head coach and see how he worked on a daily basis. I got a chance to look at how to get things done and do things the right way. It was impressive.”
Beyond being friends, Trestman and Payton embraced football in the same way and, through all those symposiums and lunchtime chats, both became devotees of the modern day West Coast offense.
They learned it was all about multiple looks, using unique personnel and personnel groupings to create mismatches and a special type of offensive lineman and offensive line blocking.
Enter Aaron Kromer.
“I know Aaron very well, we coached together in college at Miami of Ohio,” Payton said. “The thing Aaron brought to us was real good, consistent play up front. He developed our linemen. You know he was part of our winning a Super Bowl as our offensive line coach and was someone that was real passionate about the game.
“Aaron’s a unique package of a very, very good communicator, he’s a quick–minded football kind of guy who understands the real detailed technical kind of things that go on with playing the offensive line,” Trestman said. “And he has the ability to communicate that.”
What Payton currently has that Trestman and Kromer don’t is a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Drew Brees and two unique weapons in Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles to create those matchup nightmares.
Trestman doesn’t hide his envy of Graham.
“He’s hard to stop,” Trestman said. “There are matchup issues there, obviously. We’re in the first year with a player with that kind of size and length in Martellus [Bennett]. They’re ... 3 years into it with Jimmy, so they’re more evolved in their offense. He’s a force, there’s no doubt about it.”
Regardless of the outcome Sunday, the meeting for these coaches will be bittersweet. Close friends and respected colleagues will meet for 60 minutes on the field of play, each hoping to bludgeon the other in defeat.
Then they will meet at midfield afterwards and embrace, each offering the other thanks for helping to get him there.