Response to Injuries: Coach ‘em Up

Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes Bears general manager Phil Emery and head coach Marc Trestman on the Bears response to the rash of injuries to veterans that is now plaguing the team:

“‘It really comes down to fundamentals and techniques,’ Trestman said. ‘Not an improvement in scheme. Not an improvement in structure. Just being in the right place at the right time and doing the right thing with the fundamentals that we’ve been taught.’

“‘We need to improve our assignments, our discipline and our fundamentals,’ general manager Phil Emery said. ‘If we do those things, we’ll play better defense. We’ll rush the passer better. We’ll have more stops.’”

But it’s the Chicago Tribune‘s David Haugh that puts his finger right on the most important point.

“Despite losing five starters to injuries, Trestman and Emery offered no excuses because they know injury-riddled teams such as the Packers and Patriots win anyway. But they didn’t offer compelling evidence to believe the optimism they tried selling about a team likely to start four rookies against the Packers.”

The first part of the quote is the point. One thing that former head coach Lovie Smith had right was that injuries are not an excuse. The current Bears bras seems to agree (via Rick Morrissey at the Sun-Times):

“I started to ask him the obvious question but ended up making the obvious statement: Coach, I know you said you liked your team’s attitude in the locker room, but with all due respect, you don’t have much of a team without Cutler and Briggs.

‘‘’I think we do have a team,’’ he said. ‘‘I beg to differ with you. You’re entitled to your opinion, but these things are going on throughout the National Football League. Good players are going down throughout.’”

Good teams perform in spite of injuries and there are good examples of Packers teams that have done so. These teams didn’t run out and panic and trade draft picks for immediate help and the Bears aren’t going to do it either. Consistent with that, as pointed out by Adam L. Jahns at the Sun-Times, Emery is having a hard time getting a trade lined up where there’s equal value on both sides.

“[Emery] stressed that ‘trades aren’t dependent on injury perspective.’”

“‘The most limiting factor is getting equal value,’ he said. ‘When you don’t get equal value, you can put the team in a position, short- and long-term, of not being where you want to be roster-wise.

“‘If we find one that .?.?. works to our benefit at positions of needs that I think are obvious in terms of the attrition that we’ve had, we would make that trade.’”

I’d say that the Bears are unlikely to trade draft picks unless they are getting good young talent in return and, if its good young talent, no one will be trading it.

Nevertheless, the Bears might yet find a young player with talent who has busted out with another team for a low round pick. And they might find some help in the existing free agent market. But the key to fighting through adversity is really with hard work and, perhaps most important, good coaching. As with most things in life, mediocre players with good fundamentals can go pretty far. It’s particularly true in the NFL because the mediocre players are still pretty talented.

People like Haugh who are looking for “compelling evidence” that the Bears will do what other good teams have done in the past by coaching back ups to perform at a high level aren’t going to find a lot, its true. Such things don’t show themselves until after the fact and Trestman’s coaching staff is in its first year. But I’d say that new defensive tackle Landon Cohen and defensive end David Bass already started to emerge against the Redskins. For those who are looking for more, this is the chance for the team, coaches and players, to show what it can do. The Bears seem to be embracing the opportunity (again via Morrissey):

“‘There’s a lot of reasons to be excited about coming back here next week and cleaning up the things that we can get better at,’ [Trestman] said. ‘We get the opportunity to go to Lambeau Field. We know it’s going to be for a first-place position in our [division], regardless of what happens this weekend. Our guys should be excited about that and I believe they will [be].’”

Truth be told, so will I.

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