Earlier this week, Dane asked what your requirements for a successful 2013 season were, and for the most part, the responses were about what I expected, with a couple oddball exceptions. I never really got to put down my thoughts on the question, but I'll do so as I get to what I really want to discuss - the reason for firing Lovie Smith and hiring Marc Trestman, and the expectations based upon that.
Of course, when you fire a coach who's generally performed decently well, and just came off a 10-6 season, expectations for that coach are going to be higher than if you just fired a guy who went 2-14. But is that the best way to look at it? As we've discussed many times, Lovie Smith didn't get fired because he went 10-6 - he was fired because of an inability to get into the playoffs with non-bye teams, an inability to get into the playoffs frequently, and while technically not proven, an inability to get into and win the Super Bowl.
It's because of that that I kind of chuckle whenever I see it suggested that Marc Trestman is a failure if he doesn't surpass ten wins or get into the playoffs in 2013.
There's a much bigger picture than just the next season whenever a coach is hired or fired.
If your expectations for the 2013 Bears are more than ten wins, of the 32 teams in the NFL, eight teams finished with better than ten wins. Six of those were division winners, including the NFC North champion Packers, and the other two were 10-6. And every wild card won at least ten games as well. Five teams in the NFL had exactly ten wins. Two of them were division champs, two of them were wild cards, and the fifth was the Bears.
The Bears were the lone 10-win team to not make the playoffs in 2012.
So Lovie Smith wasn't fired for not finishing with a good record or for not making the playoffs solely in 2013 - 10-6 is a competitive record that puts teams in the playoffs more often than not. If you're looking for more than ten wins, you're looking for the playoffs.
And that's fine, because if you're looking for the playoffs, you're looking for what the Bears are looking for. Get into the playoffs, get to the Super Bowl, and win the thing.
Of course that's what all teams want.
The difference is that going forward, the Bears didn't believe Lovie Smith could be the guy to get them that far, and that Marc Trestman has a better chance to carry the team there, given the direction Phil Emery has in mind.
Lovie Smith's Bears made three playoff appearances in nine seasons, with three 1-seeds, three playoff victories and one Super Bowl loss. The last playoff appearance was two full seasons ago. The Bears have gone through as many offensive coordinators in four seasons as they have had playoff appearances in Lovie's tenure. The Bears have never in Lovie's tenure made the playoffs with a non-bye-week team.
Lovie's Bears also won ten games four times in his tenure. Last year was the most recent. Guess what the other three were?
Keep in mind, this is after picking up Jay Cutler in 2009 and beginning to build additional offensive pieces around what has typically been a craptasticular offense. Brandon Marshall wasn't here in 2009, or 2010, or 2011. Alshon Jeffery is a recent draft pick. This year, it's a bunch of offensive linemen, including Jermon Bushrod and first-round draft pick Kyle Long. It's adding Martellus Bennett to replace Kellen Davis. It's adding a new "offensive line guru" to replace the old "offensive line guru." It's also adding another new offensive scheme and a very versatile offensive mind and oft-declared "quarterback guru" in the new head coach.
Just like Marshall, Trestman is another (big) piece to the puzzle.
All while hoping that plugging in Mel Tucker and keeping the scheme the same will lead to the defense continuing to be as productive as 2012.
It's these reasons that I'm waiting until 2014 to really, truly judge the Bears' new head coach. 2013 is a year in transition - the work Phil Emery and Trestman have put in this offseason isn't the work of merely stopgapping a few holes and making a run; it's a rebuilding of the offensive side of the ball in its near entirety. The work began with Jerry Angelo's trade to pick up Jay Cutler, and continued with Emery's acquisition of Marshall and Jeffery. But those moves alone with changes at coordinator and a leaky offensive line don't build an offense from the ground up.
Ten wins is certainly possible, especially if things click immediately. But whether it does remains to be seen. Yes, quarterbacks such as Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III have jumped in and had some pretty good success early in their careers to this point with some unique offensive challenges. But I'm not sure how you can take that as the rule at this point - all four are on their first NFL offense (okay, Luck's already more or less had a second) and haven't had to learn/forget/learn/forget multiple offenses for years.
It's why I'm okay with the Bears starting off slow offensively, but picking it up as the year goes on. And it's why I'm okay with the Bears not winning the division or making the playoffs in Trestman's first year. Personally, I'm expecting eight or nine wins with the talent the team has and an uptick in offensive production.
But that's just me. I'll begin expecting ten wins in 2014. Because ten wins usually gets you a playoff berth. Eleven gets you there consistently.
But not making the playoffs in 2013 isn't a cardinal sin worthy of firing the new head coach for not living up to the specter of expectations left by the recently departed head coach in 2012. Trestman was hired because the Bears believe his coaching "ceiling" is higher than Lovie's. And he'll get chances to prove them right.
Because the Bears' expectations are the same as yours - playoff appearances and, yes, championships.
And probably synergy.