Now the question of “buy in” actually becomes relevant.
That phrase was bandied and overused during the off- and preseason, when some of the issues really only involved whether players were down with style changes like lockers being scrambled to expand acquaintances or with coach Marc Trestman directing that players seek out a different lunch mate to build personal teamwork.
Those were indeed all parts of players buying into the Trestman Way. Ultimately far more important, though, was the how well players were embracing his offensive philosophies and strategies after the Mike Martz and Mike Tice years and after Trestman had been out of the NFL for years.
[VIEW FROM THE MOON: Bears outcoached, outplayed by Saints]
Veteran NFL safety and analyst Matt Bowen laid out back at the NFL Scouting Combine exactly the scenario that confronts Trestman and the Bears. “The question will be how well everybody buys in after two straight losses,” was Matt’s point.
One loss, happens. Two in a row? If there were any latent doubts, now they may begin to bubble.
The Marshall matter
This is more than Brandon Marshall’s almost predictable issues with not being the centerpiece of the offense that he has been every year in every offense with Denver and Miami since his rookie season. Marshall said back in training camp that he wasn’t entirely clear on his “role” in the offense, loosely translated into not being all-in with a support/decoy role while others like Martellus Bennett or Alshon Jeffery got the “targets.”
Marshall was all-in with his role in the run game; his block on Matt Forte’s 53-yard touchdown run at Detroit was the material for a how-to video.
And he was not an irritant when the Bears were winning three straight even if there was a different Bear leading in receptions in each of those games. But post-Detroit he was, even with a team-high 14 targets. That was a loss and so was Sunday.
Invoking the timeless bromide: Losing doesn’t build character; losing reveals character.
More than Marshall
Losing also exposes flaws, which the Detroit and New Orleans games did. And some of the problems in the 26-18 loss to the Saints involved coaching preparation and communication on the offense, Trestman’s primary theater of operations.
More than one player told CSNChicago.com last offseason that the bedrock of players’ belief in coaches was the confidence that the coaches were giving players everything they needed to be successful.
That wasn’t the case against New Orleans, when players said the Saints showed blitzes previously unseen. Trestman had said last Friday that the Saints weren’t as much a pressure 3-4 scheme as Pittsburgh but that they definitely had that in their repertoire.
Trestman indicated after the game that the coaches had answers to those blitzes but just didn’t communicate them well or soon enough.
That happens. But fool you once, shame on me; fool you twice, shame on you. And the Saints fooled the Bears’ protection for three sacks within the first 12 snaps. That is shame on somebody.
The buy in to Trestman’s program has been consistent where it matters most, with Jay Cutler, the quarterback’s lapses notwithstanding. The key to the season going forward is Trestman and his staff keeping total player confidence in the plan and planning.
That’s the buy in that matters.