Marc Trestman is facing one of his more difficult challenges as Bears head coach and it has little to do with the Green Bay Packers.
The Bears have lost three of their last four games to fall from a lofty 3-0 start and atop the NFC North, to 4-3 and now looking up at the Packers and Detroit Lions.
Trestman’s challenge now lies in two areas:
Losing can develop its own momentum in negative direction just as winning can build on itself to fuel further success.
And a coach’s message can lose traction if players, even while admitting to failures of their own, start to look at the situation and question the directions they are getting.
But Trestman’s overriding philosophy for a season lends itself to avoiding thinking in terms of stretches one way or the other. While Dick Jauron and Lovie Smith broke the season into quarters, Trestman has stated his “one-game-season” mindset.
[BEARS-PACKERS: And the winner is...]
That translates into thinking of the next game and only the next game, rather than good stretches or bad stretches.
“I’ve never thought of it that way,” Trestman said. “I’ve been involved in some of these where things go that way and I’ve been involved where teams have lost more and still been in good positions along the way.
“I think you’ve got to compartmentalize everything. Guys worked very hard this week, practiced to win, and we’ll go out Monday night and try to finish it up.”
It is more than cliché coach-speak.
Trestman was the Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator in 2002 when they opened 4-0. Then followed a four-game losing streak that included only one team that would finish that season with a winning record. The Raiders then collected themselves and went to Super Bowl XXXVII.
He was the Cleveland Browns’ offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach in 1989 when the Browns stood 7-3, then played to a tie and three losses in their next four games. From there the Browns went to the NFC Championship.
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The point would be that Trestman has more than a passing familiarity with the difference looks like between a team teetering on the brink of psychological collapse and one looking only at the next four quarters, not the last four games.
“I think the way they’ve worked and practiced, they’ve really haven’t changed much,” Trestman said after the week of practice. “It’s really the buzz of finally getting to play again. I think the rest was good… . I found that nothing with the demeanor of our football team or in the building would say that they’re not ready to go.”
The Packer problem
The Packers have to guard against just the opposite concern, if it can be called a concern. Aaron Rodgers has beaten the Bears nine of the 11 times he’s played them and, worse for the Bears, the gap has been widening.
The Bears won two of the first five games against Rodgers. Only one of the first seven meetings with the Packers with Rodgers starting was decided by more than seven points.
Only one of the last four has been decided by less than 10 points and that was the 21-13 final last year with Josh McCown starting in Green Bay.
“We’re not overconfident,” said coach Mike McCarthy. “We’re a big ol’ humble bunch up here in the great state of Wisconsin.
“Trust me, we’re not. This is a big game. It’s a game we look forward to playing in every year. It’s on Monday Night Football. We’re at home. Those are the types of things we’re focused on. That’s the reality of it.”