Danny Trevathan

Bears intent on more than a Super Bowl and believe that core elements beyond talent are in place

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USA TODAY

Bears intent on more than a Super Bowl and believe that core elements beyond talent are in place

Danny Trevathan saw it in Denver, as a member of the Broncos. Eddie Jackson saw it in Alabama, where playing for less than a national championship at the end of a season was an admitted disappointment. 

Both are seeing stirrings of that same “it” in Chicago, the kind of it that is about achieving more than a Super Bowl. For core players on one of the NFL’s both youngest and most talented rosters, reaching or winning a Super Bowl will not be enough.

“We want to be a top-five team every year, want to be up there for the ring every year,” said Trevathan, whose Broncos went to two Super Bowls, winning one, and reached the playoffs the other two of his four seasons there. "And we have to do that every game. It started last year and it’s up to the players, coaches and whole organization to keep that level up there.

“It takes a special group to do that year in, year out. We’re talking about being in that top bracket, the five teams that show up every year. That’s what we want to do right now.”

Easy to say, not to do.

Indeed, to be one of “those teams,” the ones consistently at the top of the Super Bowl odds lists, is arguably more difficult that actually getting to and winning a Super Bowl. It begins with the obvious dance-ticket of reaching the playoffs, and only two teams currently have playoff streaks longer than two years: New England an NFL-record 10 straight (2009-18) and Kansas City four (2015-18). The Bears did hire the coach who’d been part of the Chiefs’ first three in the string – Matt Nagy – but it is ultimately about the players.

How difficult is sustained membership in the top-five club? Over the span of the Patriots’ 10-year playoff run, the Packers, Giants, Ravens, Seahawks, Broncos and Eagles all won Super Bowls. Green Bay’s came in their eight-year streak, but Baltimore, Denver and Seattle topped out at five straight playoff years.

The top-team goal is cheap talk. Former GM Phil Emery constantly spoke of “multiple championships” and laid out a match for Trevathan’s mission statement as he targeted, “Be in the mix at the end, be in position to get in the playoffs and win championships,” then oversaw successive playoff-short win totals of 10, 8 and 5.

The longest “modern” playoff streaks, ones since 2000, are:

Team                 Years                Quarterback

New England   2009-18 (10)    Tom Brady

Indianapolis     2002-10 (9)       Peyton Manning

Green Bay        2009-16 (8)       Aaron Rodgers

Seven tied with 5

What it requires

Consistency among the elites involves elite quarterbacking; the best of the last 20 years have been led by Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Trevathan saw how that worked while in Denver, when Manning arrived.

(Does he believe the Bears have their “Peyton?” “Absolutely!” he said with a smile as he went into detail on the merits of Mitchell Trubisky, all of which will be part of an upcoming column.)

Sustained excellence is about more than one position, however.

The Crimson Tide ranked No. 1 nationally in 2011 and 2012, the two years before Jackson joined the team. Alabama then finished seventh in 2013, fourth in 2014, No. 1 in 2015 and No. 2 in 2016. More was involved than simply Nick Saban.

“[It is] just basically everyone coming in having their mind set on one goal, not being selfish,” Jackson said. “You’ve gotta be real selfless. At Alabama, that’s what we had. We had a lot of players that were determined. We all had our mind set on one goal.

“You feel it here now, especially after last season. Everybody knows how close we came. The mindset for the team right now is big. The goals and everything we want to accomplish, we know what we have to do to accomplish that.”

Trevathan was signed away from Denver to bring some of the excellence character that he’d been part of cultivating with the Broncos. He believes that even through the down years with John Fox that the result is that core of excellence both in expectation and execution.

“You have to believe it and it’s up to the players not to let that level of expectation fall,” Trevathan said. “It’s kind of similar to that [Denver] situation, but I’m a little bit older now and in that older group now. I was part of that group there.

“The guys here buy in and we know each other, know we can be great. We know we can get to the Super Bowl and that’s the way we work every day. It’s the attitude. The passion for the game. The want. The will. All that stuff factors in and you’ve got to be around your guys, have a feel for that.”

 

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How Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith will be critical to the Bears' defensive transition 

How Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith will be critical to the Bears' defensive transition 

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — As the Bears’ transition to Chuck Pagano’s scheme kicks into high gear during training camp, they do so with the benefit of two inside linebackers who the team’s best player believes can be All-Pros in 2019. 

“You can say that's a large task for those guys,” outside linebacker Khalil Mack said. “But I don't think it will be.”

Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith are the nerve center for the Bears’ defense, and in 2018 were one of the league’s best inside linebacking duos. From a communication and leadership standpoint, it’s hard to think of a better player to have leading that Vic Fangio-to-Pagano switch than Trevathan, a seven-year veteran who won a Super Bowl four years ago and had a strong 2018. 

From a pure talent standpoint, having Smith in the middle of this defense is, of course, massive. And that’s not discounting Trevathan’s own athletic skills (he had two interceptions and over 100 tackles last year) and Smith’s football I.Q. and leadership. 

“(Smith) wants to be great,” Trevathan said. “That’s why we fit so well. We can play off one another. We both can run, we both can hit, we both like this game of football, man.” 

Smith and Trevathan worked well together in 2018 despite Smith holding out of all of training camp, then getting injured shortly after signing his rookie contract in mid-August, leading to him participating in about one and a half preseason practices. While on one hand the success enjoyed by Smith (and Mack) last year is a mark against the importance of training camp, the Bears do believe having Smith and Trevathan grinding together in Bourbonnais will have a positive impact. 

“They got some of that last year that they didn't have in training camp, but now, learning Chuck's defense and how that's going to go, any communication that they can get is going to be beneficial,” coach Matt Nagy said. “They both know each other now, their strengths and weaknesses. And they're both different. You got one savvy vet, you got a young guy coming in that is so hungry to be greatest ever to play the position so they mix well together.”

Smith, for what it’s worth, dismissed any talk of him being an All-Pro — “That's high praise but I'm just trying to be the best version of myself whether that's All-Pro or not,” he said — but his drive to be great isn’t in question. He’ll probably get more All-Pro and Pro Bowl buzz than Trevathan this year. 

But don’t discount Trevathan’s impact on the Bears. He was the vocal leader of the NFL’s best defense in 2018 and started all 17 of his team’s regular season and postseason games. The 30-year-old — and free-agent-to-be after this season — is a vital part of what made the Bears’ defense great in 2018, and remains a critical reason why those around this team believe there won’t be a drop-off with a new coordinator in 2019. 

“In my mind, I believe that I am All-Pro,” Trevathan said. “I might not have been there, but in my mind to this team, to my brothers, I want to practice and show up in games like a pro. My mentality is that I’m a pro. If that happens, I’m not worried about that stuff. I’m worried about getting my team better, getting my guys better. 

“That stuff will happen. And Khalil knows what he’s talking about. He’s been to the Pro Bowl, so if he said that, I know that for sure.” 

Danny Trevathan, Roquan Smith bask in ‘linebacker heaven’ at Bears100 Celebration

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USA Today

Danny Trevathan, Roquan Smith bask in ‘linebacker heaven’ at Bears100 Celebration

When Dick Butkus talks, you listen — especially if you’re a former first-round linebacker entering his second year in the NFL. 

So what did Butkus tell Roquan Smith this weekend at the Bears100 Celebration?

“Pretty much Butkus was like, ‘Just be violent. By all means be violent, that was his main thing,” Smith said. 

Otis Wilson, the linebacker who won a Super Bowl with the Bears in 1985, had similar advice for Smith. Though perhaps the lesson is more about being physical than being, well, that physical. 

“I probably wouldn't have a game check and then (would have to) give them some of my signing bonus,” Smith said, when asked how much money he’d stand to lose if he strictly followed Butkus and Wilson's advice. 

For Smith and Danny Trevathan, the opportunity to meet with Butkus, Mike Singletary and other former Bears linebackers had significant value. While Brian Urlacher backed out at the last minute due to some self-reported digestive issues, there still was a wealth of linebacking information and experiences congregating in Rosemont over the weekend. As Trevathan put it: “This is linebacker heaven.”

While Smith chatted with Wilson and Butkus — Smith won the collegiate Butkus Award, given to the nation’s best linebacker, his final year at Georgia — Trevahtan was able to pick the brain of Singletary. Trevathan had previously read one of Singletary’s books but hadn’t met him before this weekend, and said he can’t wait to apply the lessons he learned this upcoming season. 

“I just know that it’s going to carry over with us because we have so much respect for those guys, and anything they say, we’re zoomed in, we listen to everything that they’re saying because we know that they did it before,” Trevathan said. “And this ain’t no regular (person) talking. It’s somebody that really came in here, worked their tail off and actually reaped the benefits of it. So we know we have to go out there — the window of opportunity is so small.” 

While the Bears100 Celebration was ostensibly a fan event, with autograph tables and activities and merchandise for the thousands that came through the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center last weekend, it was much more than that. It was an opportunity for old teammates to re-connect and tell stories.  

And it was an opportunity for current Bears players to learn from the wealth of information possessed by the living Hall of Famers and hundreds of players who congregated in one place for a truly special weekend. 

“I’m rarely fanned out, but when I see those group of guys, just the foundation and the history that’s here — 100 years Celebration — yeah, I was definitely star-struck just to be around them,” Trevathan said. “And (getting) to have a conversation with them, talk about life, talk about football — those are the type of things you can’t really put a price on.”