By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) The call for the head coach’s head after giving up more than 100 points combined in the last two games sandwiched around a bye week isn’t unreasonable. A 3-6 record and massive underachievement in all phases of “growing the football” makes the demand for a man’s job fairly justified. If Bears coach Marc Trestman were canned tomorrow, I wouldn’t make much of a fuss.
But then what do you have? What changes?
Jay Cutler is still here regardless. He’s about the 12th-best quarterback in the NFL by advanced statistics. That’s about what has been expected of him if you cut out those who will complain about the guy even if he cures Ebola. Those are the people who move the goalposts after saying “he sucks,” and you point out that so far this year Cutler has his best career quarterback rating, second-best touchdown percentage and third-best interception percentage while averaging his second-most passing yards, but “he’s not a leader.”
Do those stats justify the money he’s paid? Probably not, but then Trestman doesn’t hand out the contracts, and it’s foolish to chide an athlete for being “overpaid” — it’s not Cutler’s fault he was offered that money. Even though the Bears could hypothetically rid themselves of Cutler, that’s like saying Nancy Grace could become not a fear-mongering banshee with a Southern drawl and mustard gas coming from her oddly large nostrils in the next two years.
Cutler deserves criticism, as does Trestman for supposedly being able to “fix” his quarterback, as does general manager Phil Emery for choosing Trestman to do so. At the end of the day, and apologies for the Lovie-ism, Jay is their quarterback (seriously, if you think by any chance that Jimmy Clausen is any solution, go play in traffic). Jettisoning a coach doesn’t change that, nor does it change the fact that Cutler can’t be expected to successfully chase an opponent scoring 30-plus points, which has happened in four of the Bears’ last six games. All the talk last season was of the historically bad defense, and not much has changed.
The Bears are dead last in the league in points given up. They’re 26th in yards allowed. The defensive backs as a collective unit stink. The linebackers stink. Injuries abound, but a lack of roster depth is painfully obvious. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has done nothing to show he is capable of his job, yet at the same time, he’s not to blame for shoddy personnel. Name a guy who fixes this defense tomorrow.
You should be more disappointed in Trestman for his choice of a special teams coordinator. Every week there’s a moment in the third phase that embodies the complete mess the unit has become under Joe DeCamillis. In Sunday’s game against Green Bay, it was the fumble by punter Pat O’Donnell that essentially was a blocked kick. The Bears special teams as a whole is ranked 30th in the league, according to the most recent Football Outsiders adjustments. They are a bad, dumb, undisciplined group, and only the hemorrhaging defense keeps them from earning more hellfire from fans and media. And if Trestman is let go, how does that fix the return game? (I don’t care about a kickoff return touchdown in garbage time to shave the deficit down to 42 points.)
How does the future get better quickly? If you want to rely on Emery’s drafting ability, everybody in the 2012 Bears draft class save for Alshon Jeffery would like to sell you a timeshare. Cutler’s eventual replacement as franchise quarterback isn’t being drafted because the Bears can’t afford to waste a pick on a guy who’ll ride the pine for the next two years while gaping holes elsewhere on the roster exist. If Trestman is fired, what will be the newest version of Darrell Bevell or Bruce Arians that Emery will pass on?
Has Trestman lost the locker room? Maybe. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who has not been near 100 percent healthy at any time this season, and linebacker Jonathan Bostic insist that the players really respect their coach. Chalk that up to diplomacy if you will, but the only player noticeably indifferent to Trestman has been the slow-when-healthy Lance Briggs, and he’s not a Bear next year anyway. The reputation of a coach in a locker room makes for good narrative, but rah-rah pathos and Spartan mentality wins college games. The NFL is grown man’s league where they’re paid to perform, and there are more than 40 players on the Bears who aren’t performing — save for Matt Forte, Kyle Fuller and maybe a handful of linemen on both sides of the ball. That can’t be put on Trestman.
If you want him fired tomorrow or after the season, I won’t fight you on that. But it begs the question of what can another head coach do for this roster that Marc Trestman can’t?
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @TimBaffoe.