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Bears Tue Nov 25 2014

We Should've Seen the Trestman Collapse Coming

Chicago BearsWhen a new coach is hired, you go out of your way to like them. Regime change optimism is a good feeling to have. It provides hope that the future of the franchise can be better than the near past. But like any good drug, its side effects can be nasty.

We were blinded by a coach that oozed charisma and honesty during his first few months. Losing does bad things to good people, and though he seems like a really nice guy, those characteristics that we loved early on are gone. Marc Trestman is now dodgy in press conferences, and can't be honest about the play of his two best offensive players because he fears what could happen if he calls them out in front of the assembled media.

Everyone's focus when Trestman was hired centered around how his offenses made immediate leaps forward. They scored points in bunches despite learning a new system, and he got the reputation as being a Quarterback Whisperer. Just look at the improvements (or keeping the status quo in San Francisco) when Trestman became offensive coordinator:

Cleveland (1989): Improved offense from 20th in points per game to 15th, and went to the conference championship game after losing in the wild card game the previous year.

San Francisco (1995): Repeated as the highest scoring offense despite losing star running back Ricky Watters in free agency.

Arizona (1998): Improved offense from 25th in points per game to 15th with Jake Plummer at QB, and helped the Cardinals to their first playoff appearance since 1982.

Oakland (2002): Took over as playcaller after Jon Gruden was traded to Tampa Bay, and improved the offense from fourth in the NFL to being the league's second-highest scoring.

We saw those numbers when he was hired and were blown away. Why hadn't anyone hired Trestman as their coach already? Did the Bears just score a diamond in the rough? Phil Emery had found someone who embraced statistical evidence, win probability models, and someone who could possibly fix Jay Cutler. The city celebrated.

But the facts we chose to ignore at the time are now all coming to fruition. He had been interviewed by Indianapolis and Cleveland for their head coaching openings before being hired by the Bears, but each team passed on him because he was a bit of an odd duck, and neither organization was certain he could handle being the leader of a team in the NFL -- where players make significantly more than the coaches. In the CFL, the salary cap for an entire team is $5 million this season, or less than one-third of what Cutler is taking home. They would've been interested in him as an offensive coordinator, but he wasn't leaving his head coaching job in the CFL for a demotion.

Most teams with coaching vacancies in the past five years didn't even bother interviewing Trestman, but the few that did had the foresight to look even deeper into his teams' performances. Sure, they all did extremely well in their first season, but how did he do after that? Game film has ended the careers of countless "geniuses."

For someone who did a research project on how well the Bears performed with Cutler and Brian Urlacher on the field together, it would've been nice for Emery to pay more attention to these alarming numbers:

Cleveland (1990): The offense collapsed, falling to 27th in the league and scoring 106 fewer points than they did in '89. Trestman and the entire staff were fired after finishing 3-13, and the Browns replaced them with future Hall of Famer Bill Belichick.

San Francisco (1996): The 49ers slipped to the third best offense in the league after being the top dog four straight seasons. They got smoked in the divisional round by Brett Favre's Packers, and George Seifert and his staff were fired in favor of Steve Mariucci.

Arizona (1999): Instead of progressing, the 15th ranked offense from the year before dropped to 30th, only beating out the expansion Browns who returned to the league after a three year hiatus. In 2000, they finished 29th in offense, scoring 35 fewer points than in '99, and the entire staff was fired.

Oakland (2003): The offense plummeted from Super Bowl level to 29th, scoring a staggering 180 fewer points than the year before. The entire staff was fired.

We saw rollouts, play action, quick slants, and deep throws down the sideline last year when the Bears offense was second in the NFL in scoring. Then Trestman tried to get cute and add even more, while getting away from the things that worked. Have you seen the Alshon-end around recently? What about the back shoulder throws that are nearly unstoppable? Trestman seems to believe you have to change to evolve. But evolution in the NFL is continually beating opponents into submission and forcing them to change -- not changing to try and fool them.

We should've seen this all coming. It's history repeating itself. The warnings were all just a few clicks away, but we chose to ignore them or not read that far ahead because we were distracted by the shiny new toy. It said right on the box that it had lead paint.

 
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