Marc Trestman had us fooled for a brief moment in time.
Bears GM Phil Emery had already demonstrated a propensity to try to be the smartest guy in the room during his first season in Chicago; hiring the mysterious Trestman felt like another manifestation of that quality. And for the first half of the 2013 season, it looked like Emery had found a diamond in the rough.
The “Quarterback Whisperer” was getting the most out of Jay Cutler, Alshon Jeffrey was blossoming and the playbook was loaded with inventive misdirection. But eventually, the foreboding cracks would begin to appear.
Week 10 brought a pivotal division matchup against the Detroit Lions at home, or the infamous Josh McCown or Injured Jay Cutler game. McCown had been playing well in Cutler’s absence and had the offense humming. Cutler was returning from a torn groin muscle but Trestman insisted Cutler was good to go. He wasn’t.
Cutler limped and struggled throughout the game until Trestman replaced him with McCown for the final drive – and he promptly threw a garbage-time touchdown. The move to start Cutler was criticized but Trestman had bought himself enough goodwill to weather the storm.
That was the start of a 3-5 finish for the 2013 Bears; including a blowout loss to an average Rams team and a gutpunch defeat against Minnesota the following week, when Trestman kicked a late field goal on second down. Whether that showed a distrust in his offense or a run-of-the-mill brain fart, it was a mental error that would come to define Trestman’s Bears.
A 54-11 thrashing at the hands of the Eagles, with a chance to clinch the division, followed three weeks later. The primetime blowout would become the unfortunate signature of Trestman’s Bears, as they allowed a division title slip away without very much of a fight. Then as we all know, the Bears lost to Green Bay in the finale when they played well but would be haunted by two glaring coaching errors: the inability to pick up a loose ball sitting on the field and a blown coverage on Randall Cobb’s game-winning touchdown.
Here in 2014, Marc Trestman failed the Bears in a multitude of ways. His offense was a disaster, the special teams were not at a professional level and in-game playcalling was close to unforgivable. But there were six teams worse than the Bears this year, and not all of them changed coaches.
The reason Marc Trestman was fired on Monday was because he made the Bears an embarrassment.
Whispers Trestman was in over his head started early when he allowed Lance Briggs, alleged team leader, to skip practice during game week to open a restaurant. This came on the heels of a tumultuous training camp that included a suspension of Martellus Bennett.
The Bears lost their season opener to the Bills at home in head-scratching fashion, but Trestman still had significant backing. The next moment that hinted he didn’t have a firm hand on the team was September 18th; when Brandon Marshall decided to address old domestic violence accusations in a rambling, victim-blaming, directionless press conference. In a season of embarrassments, Marshall’s press conference ranks pretty high on the list.
After ho-hum wins in San Francisco and New York, the Bears would collapse to the Packers at home when they were shutout in the second half. The very next week brought an inexplicable loss to Carolina, as the consistently horrid special teams put together their worst game and the offense put up just three second half points.
Then there was the home loss to the Dolphins, when the team gave the impression that they would rather be on South Beach than playing the football team. Disturbing patterns were becoming the norm during a brutal stretch.
And then Tom Brady took every shred of hope the Bears’ 2014 season had and pummeled it into the turf. The Bears aren’t the first team to get their tails handed to them by Brady and Belichick in Foxboro, but the game was fittingly lowlighted by Lamarr Houston tearing his ACL during a sack celebration of the Patriots backup quarterback.
Afterwards Trestman appeared tone-deaf to the shellacking, debuting his now infamous line that the Bears had “a great week of practice.” As the Bears headed into the bye it should have been the end of the line for embattled defensive coordinator Mel Tucker but Trestman foolishly stuck with Tucker.
Rock bottom came in the form of a Monday night game when the Bears were hammered by the rival Packers. It was now obvious they didn’t have a chance against quality competition, something we probably should have seen coming in 2013. Apathy set in among the fan base and Trestman’s seat became scalding hot.
But the Bears weren’t close to done, as offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer admitted to being the source to a scathing story about Jay Cutler in early December. Trestman had the opportunity to relieve Kromer of his duties immediately after undermining his authority and going to the media but he stuck by him. The portrait of a spineless yes-man was almost finished.
Eventually, in an effort to save his job and shift the blame to Jay Cutler, Trestman shamelessly benched Cutler for Jimmy Clausen. The hope was that Clausen would become McCown 2.0 and Trestman’s reputation would be restored. Clausen was unimpressive and injured in the process, having to crawl back to Cutler for one final embarrassment in Week 17.
The humiliation became so obvious that no one wanted to be a part of this organization as it was currently run. Players like Robbie Gould came out on the record disparaging their coach, and fans were solely focused on getting a high draft pick.
The offense didn’t work, his play calling was poor and his game management skills were underwhelming. All of this led to the Bears producing a subpar season but that wasn’t necessarily the deathblow to Marc Trestman’s tenure as the coach of the Chicago Bears.
Teams endure losing seasons and move on. But the way Trestman turned a team of veteran, prideful players on the verge of success into a collection of finger-pointing, back-stabbing children that the rest of the league was laughing at, meant he had to go.
(Photo courtesy of Chicago Bears)