Year one of the Marc Trestman regime has had some ups and downs, something that most NFL people expected. He inherited an aging defense and an offense that has been near the bottom of the league for a number of years. Even though they went 10-6 in 2012, there was enough turnover expected on the team, from coaches and players, that success in 2013 was uncertain.
He's made decisions this season that some have lauded, and others that left many heads scratched.
No coach hits on all his decisions, much like no GM hits on all his draft picks. A GM has a philosophy he uses to guide his drafting. Some are the height, weight, speed, combine type drafters, others focus on their work between the lines, some shy away from the red flag players, while others draft best player available regardless.
But I think we all see variations in patterns from GMs. No one is 100% stubborn in their philosophy.
As recently as 2012, the Bears went with an athletic tweener type player in the first round that had good combine numbers, then moved up in the 2nd to draft a player that fell, partly because of work ethic questions. One is still a work in progress leaning towards bust, and the other is fast becoming a dangerous Pro Bowl level play maker.
In 2013 the Bears trusted their draft board and plucked an inexperienced guard that tested athletically through the roof, then grabbed an experienced football player, not known for his athleticism, in the 5th round. Both are currently starting on their offensive line.
I think a GM that isn't flexible is setting himself up for failure.
Trusting numbers is one thing, but sometimes trusting your gut proves to be the correct call.
The same can be applied to coaching.
Chicago general manager Phil Emery hired a head coach with no prior NFL head coaching experience, but Trestman's attention to detail and his like-minded analytical approach to football intrigued Emery. After numerous interviews, Emery had no other option but to hire his kindred spirit.
Both are longtime football guys that have embraced sabermetrics.
Emery has spoken about the Moneyball aspect of football since he first stepped to a podium at Halas Hall. Oh sure he has roots in old fashioned scouting, but he's also referenced the metrics of sites like Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders.
Emery and Trestman are very much alike.
For much of the season, it seemed as though Trestman was a head coach that poured over stats and figures, meticulously looking for an angle. He's quoted percentages and given 500 plus word explanations for his decisions. So when he says he went with his gut on a decision, even though the "numbers" show his decision to be flawed, he's criticized for not sticking to his modus operandi.
Do we really want a coach that sticks to one philosophy?
Do we want a sabermetric coach, or a guy that goes with his gut?
Why can't we have both?
The odds say going for it on 4th down is usually the best way to go. There have been studies done that show punting is an outdated concept. The odds say a 6-6 team is a long shot to make the playoffs.
Yet NFL teams usually punt in punting situations, and they rarely go for it on 4th down.
Sometimes the unexpected happens.
Sometimes going against the grain proves to be the correct call.
Trestman's initial hire was met with trepidation by many Chicago Bears fans. The uneasiness quickly turned into optimism, but that optimism has started to fade, and now he's being called the Lovie Smith of offensive football.
I've seen Trestman called someone that would be better off as a coordinator only. I've seen it speculated that his head coaching tenure will be cursed with an inability to find a quality coach to run the defensive side of the ball, much like Lovie struggled with finding an offensive mind to work with.
Is that fair?
After only 12 games?
Even the staunchest Marc Trestman supporter would say he made a bad call in trying a field goal on 2nd down. Not one coach in the history of the NFL has tried such a long kick on 2nd down, when it wasn't a last second situation. I thought it was a mistake, I thought his reasoning had some holes in it, although it was spoken eloquently and with conviction.
His conviction is being called stubbornness by some writers in town because he won't say the words, 'I made a mistake.' Even though he admits to second guessing himself, and frequently self-scouting his decisions.
Sometimes going against the grain is the wrong call. It happens.
Hindsight brings to light a lot of mistakes, should he start a pattern where he's the wavering buffoon at the podium?
'Yes Brad, I was wrong in attempting that kick on 2nd down.'
'David of course you're correct, calling that 4th and inches was a clear mistake.'
'Rick, I know, I know, throwing in that situation was a terrible decision.'
'I honestly don't know what I was thinking Moon, I never should have punted.'
No head coach will remain a head coach for very long if he addressed his mistakes like that.
I'm OK with a coach that shows confidence, and I'm OK with a coach that doesn't stick solely to his sabermetric guns.
You can't slap a metric on the game of football and roll with the results 100% of the time, no more than you can ignore all the advanced numbers on tendencies and go off a feeling.
Criticizing Trestman for going from "Moneyball" to "gut" is an asinine complaint, yet other writers in Chicago are doing just that.
I'm OK with a head coach that is smart enough to give both methods a thought, and I'm OK with Marc Trestman coaching the Chicago Bears.