We don’t want to overstate the importance of Monday night’s game at Lambeau for Bears head coach Marc Trestman but sometimes we can’t help it. Packers games always feel a bit bigger than others and primetime games are the ones national media members use to deliver their misguided opinions. (Hey, maybe they are a good offense but they weren’t good when I saw them so they’re not good!”) Like it or not, the Bears will dominate the conversation across the sports world Tuesday morning.
Is it a pivotal game for Trestman? It can be. If the Bears deliver an intense, noteworthy performance (especially on defense) all the credit will go to Trestman as his captains have been sidelined with injury. If Josh McCown leads the offense up and down the field against Green Bay, all the credit will go to Trestman for whispering to yet another mediocre quarterback. Nothing is expected from the Bears. Everything they produce will be credited to the new head coach.
That is what comes from being the offensive “savior” in a city starved for offense. Trestman is being given some old-fashioned leeway. A grace period. But a few seasons of defensive futility and Trestman won’t be the savior. He’ll be Lovie Smith, a one-sided head coach. But those conversations are a long way down the road for a head coach who has transformed one of the worst offenses in football into a top ten unit in both yards and points per game.
And Trestman has handled himself well in these days leading up to the Bears return to action.
SAFETY IN BLUNDERS
The regression of Chris Conte and Major Wright has been the most surprising development on the defensive side of the ball in 2013. From Michael C. Wright of ESPN:
The duo entered the season with lofty expectations after a 2012 campaign in which they helped the Bears rank No. 2 in opponent passer rating (71.3), and a 69.8 rating in the 15 games they started together. Wright and Conte haven’t achieved similar success through the first seven games of 2013, but several circumstances induced by injuries (such as the front four’s lack of a consistent pass rush and the team’s inability to stop the run) have contributed.
Asked if Conte and Wright have been letting down the team, Trestman said: “I don’t think that is the case. I think that our performance in all places isn’t where we need it to be,” before adding he hasn’t “considered anything like (making a change in the starting lineup at safety).”
This is not the week to take Conte and Wright out of the starting lineup. Who are you going to replace them with? But if their play continues to decline over the next few weeks, Trestman will be forced to assert his influence on the defensive side of the ball and send SOMEONE to the gameday inactive list as a message that “awful won’t be tolerated”.
Trestman is being pragmatic, not emotional. He is being patient, not impulsive. And that approach leads directly into…
A WEAK OFF?
Here’s a tidbit from an interesting column by Moon Mullin:
Marc Trestman lives a professional life replete with gambles: fourth downs, challenge flags, end-arounds and other play calls, personnel decisions. One that he made during the Bears’ off week, however, had nothing to do with what was happening on the field, and at the same time had everything to do with on-field realities.
Departing from common practice during off weeks, Trestman did not avail his team of “free” practice days and have the Bears spend at least a day practicing only their own schemes, with no direct look toward an upcoming opponent. Teams always self-scout and off weeks typically are brief respites to work on fundamentals, techniques and the basics.
“It really comes down to fundamentals and techniques and an improvement in that area,” Trestman said after last Sunday’s defensive debacle in Washington. “Not an improvement in scheme, not an improvement of structure, just being in the right place at the right time and doing the right thing with the fundamentals that we’ve been taught.”
Yet in spite of, or perhaps because of, losing three of their last four games, Trestman and his staff opted instead to give players the entire week away from football. This despite coaches universally stressing that the focus going forward would be re-doubling work on those fundamentals and techniques.
Moon is old school and the old school believes in the symbolic gestures of coaches. “Get in here to work because you need the work!” But players don’t respond to that anymore. The Bears needed to get healthy. They did not need their coach acting like he’d pushed the panic button on a 4-3 campaign.
I titled this post Trestman and the Opportunity of Monday Night and I did that for a reason. What if the Bears win Monday night at Lambeau? What if Bears fans throughout Chicagoland and the country find themselves looking around puzzled as the clock rolls toward midnight, thinking wildly to themselves…
How did we beat the Packers with Josh MCown?
How did we beat the Packers with this banged-up defense?
I think you know what that answer will be.