A Man to Keep an Eye On

Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune profiles Bears head coach Marc Trestman as he reaches the end of his first regular season:

“Trestman addressed his team [after a devastating loss to Minnesota on Dec. 1], lauding players’ effort and preparation before acknowledging they did not deserve to win. He blamed himself for their mistakes.

“And in that moment, the Bears’ two-game resurgence began. There was, after all, something serendipitous about that crushing defeat.

“’You cannot fight adversity,’ Trestman told the Tribune in a recent interview. ‘You have to embrace it. You have to smile in the face of it and know that it’s just temporary and it will pass, and we have to keep doing what we’re doing.'”

This article describes Trestman in impressive terms. He is a man who tries to create an environment around the team where players perform for each other. It’s a nice, touchy feely approach to the game and, though it’s not always the one that gets the best results in my experience, its genuine and its probably the best approach for him, personally to take.

The problem is that players who are capable of driving themselves towards excellence without a fair bit of pushing along the way are rare. Admittedly, they’re the ones who turn out to be truly great. But if you are going to win a Super Bowl, it’s the other guys who have to be shoved along who will need to help carry you there. But as long as he can get tough with players when its called for, I’m confident that the team will be OK in Trestman’s hands with this approach.

As much as I liked what the article said about Trestman, I liked what it said about the writer even more. This was an insightful look into the way Trestman approaches the game and the life that surrounds it.

Most of my posts start with a quote from a newspaper article. There’s a reason for that. Like it or not, reporters are the source of every piece of information most fans get about the Bears. This means that you have to pay attention not only to the information conveyed, but also to who is conveying it. Everyone has biases and much though we may try to avoid them, they always come out when we express ourselves. Is the group “pro-life” or “anti-abortion”? Like it or not, the term you choose tells the reader what you think.

With that in mind, it will surprise no one that I’ve noticed the absence of former Tribune writer Dan Pompei more than most. Fellow writer Brad Biggs not withstanding, Pompei was just about the best football writer I’d ever read on a weekly basis. I still miss him but I’m glad to see young writers like Campbell, who has impressed me more than once with his observations, stepping in. Campbell is a different kind of writer from Pompei. But if he can consistently write quality articles while pointing out subtle things that the average football fan wouldn’t notice, I’m sure we’ll all continue to enjoy the game that much more.

No Pressure, Jay

David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune quotes former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman on current Bears quarterback Jay Cutler:

“The better [Green Bay quarterback Aaron] Rodgers plays Sunday, the smarter Cutler must. Yet after visiting a “relaxed” Cutler on Friday at Halas Hall, Aikman sensed no additional pressure — even if it is palpable around Chicago.

“’As you get older in this league or remove yourself from the game and look back at games that really shaped who you were as a player or what you achieved as a team, this is one of those games,’ Aikman said. ‘These are the types of games that, as a quarterback, really help establish whatever legacy you have. I’m looking forward to seeing how Jay responds.’”

Aren’t we all.

Just an FYI to Aikman, the more “relaxed” Cutler looks, the more nervous he is inside. His press conference late last week where he reverted to the bratty child we all have come to know is the result of that pressure. The more he feels it, the more he reacts in a way that’s designed to make you think he doesn’t care about you or what you think about the game.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t play well. What you need to do is take a good look at him warming up right before the game. His body language should tell you all you need to know. If he looks pale, stiff and expressionless, the Bears will be done before they even start. If he doesn’t, the Packers might have a game to play.

There are a lot of things to look for in this game. For me it’s mostly its about whether the Bears can bounce back and show some drive and determination when it counts. But those who put how Cutler responds at the end of a contract year with the division title on the line above that will, indeed, have a good argument.

Brandon Marshall for the Win

Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune on wide receiver Brandon Marshall:

“The eighth-year receiver already has topped 1,000 yards for the seventh consecutive season and is headed to his fifth Pro Bowl next month. One place Marshall never has been, however: the NFL postseason. For the Bears to punch a ticket into this year’s playoffs, they will need Marshall to be on top of his game. He has been most weeks since joining the Bears, having registered 212 catches, 2,729 yards and 22 touchdowns in the last two seasons. With six catches Sunday, he will reach 100 for the fifth time in his career.”

I have stated repeatedly that the Bears making the playoffs isn’t very important because there’s no way that they (or the Packers) will do any real damage once they get there. But there are reasons why seeing them do it would be sweet. I would dearly love to see Marshall rewarded. He arrived followed by a boat load of trouble and many (myself included) assumed that past history was going to be an indication of future results. But, with some exceptions, Marshall has been a wonderful example of what a team player should be. He’s done it not just with words but with actions toward teammates like Alshon Jeffery.

Running back Matt Forte also deserves something more than a trip straight back to his living room. And it would be really nice to see Devin Hester break the return record as a Bear. So there’s much to play for today beyond what is logically an academic pursuit of a division title.