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Marc Trestman's best years as offensive coordinator have come in his first

Jon Meoli
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun
There's one common thread at Marc Trestman's pre-Ravens stops: he's at his best early.

At nearly every stop in his roundabout, decades-long NFL coaching career, new Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman has gotten the best out of his team early in his tenure.

In Trestman’s five stops as an offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns, the San Francisco 49ers, the Arizona Cardinals, the Oakland Raiders, and then head coach of the Chicago Bears, Trestman’s best statistical offensive year was his first.

The Ravens and Trestman link up at a time when both need some stability, with the former coming off their best offensive season ever and the latter looking to rebuild his image after a struggle in Chicago. His past shows this will be the year the Ravens get the most out of him.

Trestman was the quarterbacks coach of the Browns in 1988 before taking over as offensive coordinator in 1989, and the offense scored 30 more points and gained 31 more yards in his season in charge than the year before.

Trestman wasn’t an offensive coordinator again until 1995 -- he famously spent several years in the interim selling bonds before taking over as offensive coordinator of the defending Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers.

In 1995, San Francisco maintained its offensive rankings from the season before -- first in points (457) and second in yards (6,087). In that sense, Trestman showed he could pick up a similar West Coast offense to departed Ravens coordinator Gary Kubiak’s. Kubiak was quarterbacks coach the year before in San Francisco, but left with offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan for the Denver Broncos. Wheels within wheels, I know.

The 49ers fell off slightly the next year, with 59 fewer points and nearly 600 fewer yards, and Trestman had another year as a position coach before taking over the Arizona Cardinals’ offense.

There, too, Trestman did his best work the first year, guiding an offense led by quarterback Jake Plummer to 15th in the league in points and 13th in yards -- up from 25th and 24th in the season before he arrived. But that was as good as it got in the desert, as Plummer battled injuries and ineffectiveness in his final two seasons on offenses that ranked 30th (245) and 29th (210) in points in 1999 and 2000.

From there, it was on to the Oakland Raiders as a quarterbacks coach for a season, and then Trestman became offensive coordinator amid the post-Super Bowl coaching shuffle. The Raiders’ offense compiled 6,237 yards (first in the NFL) and 450 points behind a Most Valuable Player performance by quarterback Rich Gannon in 2002, and then an injury to Gannon dropped those rankings into the bottom quarter of the league the next season.

And after stints in college and the Canadian Football League, Trestman again engineered a quick upswing for the Chicago Bears as head coach and play-caller in 2013. The Bears jumped from 16th to second in the NFL in points (445) and 28th to eighth in yards (6,109) in his first season as coach before dipping in 2014.

Overall, there are still plenty of questions about how the two parties will mix, though coach John Harbaugh felt confident enough to make a quick move to bring Trestman onboard. The overall success of the union likely will be determined by this time next year.

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