Marc Trestman’s fourth down decision reads as disrespect

Marc Trestman’s fourth down decision reads as disrespect
John J. Kim, Chicago Tribune

The Chicago Bears couldn’t have gotten off to a better start Thursday night against the 0-5 New York Giants. Just 45 seconds into the game after winning the coin toss and electing to defer, stand-in corner Zack Bowman picked off Eli Manning and stole an opening drive for his offense.

What his offense did with the free drive, however, was head-scratching to say the least. After a QB scramble and two ineffective run plays to set up fourth down, Marc Trestman asked his guys to pick up a fourth and two. Not a fourth and inches, not a fourth and goal.

They might have done it, but Brandon Marshall bobbled and dropped the short pass to the left, and the Giants took over on downs.

“I did. I did," head coach Marc Trestman said when asked if he felt that was the right call to make given the situation. “We were hoping to score a touchdown, obviously.”

The problem is this: It wasn’t the right call. It was a bad call. And while Bears fans who so desperately want Marc Trestman to be the one who finally leads this team to the Promised Land won’t want to hear it, it’s true. Does it make Trestman a bad coach? Certainly not. But it was a boneheaded decision, and it read as disrespect for their 0-5 opponent.

“[I] like the call,” Jay Cutler said after the game. “We’ve just got to get it in front of ‘B’ a little more. Maybe we’ll get the first down there and maybe he breaks the first tackle and gets in. [I] like the confidence doing it at home, and we started a free possession for us.”

Confidence at home is one thing, but if you think for a second that Marc Trestman would have made that decision last week against the Saints, you’re kidding yourself. And for a guy who has always preached respect for the game and respect for his opponent to risk his team losing by a guaranteed three points in the end was, I thought, uncharacteristic.

“I felt our defense was in a place that if we didn’t make it, they’d have to go the distance,” Trestman said. “If we did [make it], we could get some energy on Zack’s interception. Didn’t happen that way. The good part about it [is] we bounced back. We came back on what was really our official first drive, went down and scored.”

Now, to Trestman’s credit, his defense did put a stop to the Giants yet again when this time Tim Jennings picked off Manning and returned the grab for a touchdown. But it was mostly downhill for Mel Tucker’s group from there.

Let’s pause for a second. I like Marc Trestman. I think he’s a great guy and one hell of a coach. I’m not trying to stir the pot just to stir the pot, but making these observations is what we do, and any time you have a chance to put the first points on the board early in the game — free drive or not, but especially on a free drive — you do it. Period.

I suppose if you want to say, since it was a freebie, that technically nothing was lost by going for it and failing, you could do that. And that may well have been Trestman’s reasoning, but if so, it was poorly thought out.

Think about the call from even Bowman’s perspective. Not putting points on the board in that situation completely negates the turnover in the first place, and a coach not quite as offensively focused probably would have considered that.

On top of it all, the Bears were playing a two-time Super Bowl MVP QB with a solid crop of playmakers while sporting a defensive line that has seen two starters sent to IR (Melton and Collins), another starter inactive (Paea), and your best corner (Tillman) also inactive.

That’s a Pro Bowler, his backup and this season’s best performer along the defensive line OUT.

And while many thought this was going to be an opportunity for the Bears’ pass rush to get going, it turned into an opportunity for the Giants’ offensive line to gain some much-needed confidence.

It’s not that Marc Trestman trusted his decimated defense; he just didn’t respect an 0-5 opponent who hung with his team right up until the very end, and it could have cost him. In the end, however, the Bears did win, despite being the first team to fail to put more than 30 points on New York all season.

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Filed under: Post Game Report

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