Marc Trestman has built a large measure of belief from Bears fans midway through his first season as head coach. But just six days after a gutsy call paid off to seal a victory in Green Bay comes doubt.
As Sunday's game went on, it was clearly visible Jay Cutler couldn't be at his best from the second quarter on. We'll take their word that a new ankle injury compounded the difficulties of a groin injury, rather a disguise that his return date came too soon. One second-half replay clearly showed him reached for the "higher" of two injuries after being knocked off-balance. It would've helped if the run game helped Cutler out, but Matt Forte simply went nowhere against the Lions. That added to the urgency of an effective passing game and the importance of Cutler's ability to maneuver in the pocket. While there were other mistakes that made the second-half offense under Cutler wind up with just two field goals in six possessions, the other four drives resulted in 31 net yards over 21 plays. It's not a slam dunk that the offense could've generated more under a backup in a groove, but Josh McCown had no trouble coming in cold and directing a 10-play, 74-yard touchdown drive.
Trestman had to pick between building trust in his No. 1 quarterback, hoping it'd pay off in the end, or making the tougher call in front of his team and doing what seemed to give the Bears a better chance in the second half to win. It could be a decision that winds up costing them a postseason berth. Detroit held on and now sits firmly in the NFC North driver's seat, based on its schedule, the season sweep of the Bears and Green Bay now down to third on its depth chart at quarterback.
Hindsight's 20/20, but there were enough concerns leading up to the decision to go ahead and start Cutler, rather than give him another week. And the "eye test" to everyone watching the game while Cutler labored in the second half didn't seem to catch Trestman's eye, as well. Cutler's toughness, and "courage," should never be questioned, but the head coach must also have a degree of courage to be firm with what gives his team the best chance to win. Trestman apparently thought (through his medical staff's determination Cutler couldn't be injured worse) that the right call was still Jay over Josh.
Of course, Cutler was, and still is, the Bears No. 1 quarterback, despite McCown's recent — and surprising — success. But was Cutler the best quarterback to play Sunday, especially in the second half, with so much on the line? The feeling here — and probably a lot of other places — is he wasn't.