MINNEAPOLIS — Marc Trestman is actually from Minneapolis, even though he is sometimes accused of being from a different world.
“I’m really proud of our football team, the way they played today,” he said after the Bears lost 13-9 to the Vikings in Sunday’s season finale.
Just so everyone is clear, the Bears didn’t score a touchdown Sunday. They were guilty of eight penalties, many of which were of the pre-snap variety, which has stalled the Bears’ offense all season. And the dagger was a blown coverage by cornerback Tim Jennings, who was playing Cover-2 instead of Cover-3 as the undrafted Adam Thielen ran wide open downfield for a 44-yard touchdown.
But Trestman remained proud of his team’s play, mainly because he said “they played with great effort. They have the last few weeks.”
Effort hasn’t necessarily been the problem, but “the last few weeks” were part of a season-ending five-game losing streak, which dropped the Bears to 5-11 on the season. And the loss to the Vikings dropped Trestman to just 3-9 against NFC North opponents during his two-year stint in Chicago.
But Planet Trestman is a strange place where reality is skewed. Losses are justified by “a great week of practice.” Accountability is absent. Trust is broken.
“It was just too much,” longtime Bears cornerback Charles Tillman said as he reflected on a bizarre season after the game. “We were just front page news too many times and I think in years past, we haven’t been that. That wasn’t how we operated. This year, there was a lot of trust broken.”
The biggest example of the trust being broken, of course, was the Aaron Kromer incident earlier this month, in which the offensive coordinator criticized quarterback Jay Cutler anonymously to NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport, before eventually fessing up and apologizing to Cutler in front of the entire offense.
“I don’ t care who you are or where you are, you’ll have conflict and it’s how you resolve that conflict,” Tillman said. “And I think when you do have conflict, you also need to let that conflict stay in house and then resolve and work through it. I think this year, we didn’t have that.”
It’s one thing to hear Tillman, who referred to himself Sunday as “a Lovie guy”, talk openly about the breach of trust under Trestman, but it’s another to hear it from a successful member of Trestman’s offense.
“I felt like trust was broken,” tight end Martellus Bennett said after hearing about Tillman’s comments.
At this point, that’s no surprise, as players have privately grumbled about the lack of accountability that was shown after Kromer’s slip-up. If Trestman hadn’t already lost the locker room before, he certainly lost it then.
“I think we need to get back to our roots. Or they need to get back to their roots,” Tillman said, completely aware that he might not be a part of next year’s team. “There was a way things were done and the way things were handled (in the past) and I think they’ll be on track of handling things the way they used to be.”
Tillman surprisingly thinks the Bears are headed in the right direction, but that might be because he’s fully aware of the current situation regarding the coaching staff. Unlike Trestman, his players are in touch with reality. Quarterback Jay Cutler talked openly after the game about waiting to see what happens with Trestman, and he even answered a question about Mike Shanahan, saying: “He deserves to be coaching somewhere.”
So why does Tillman think the Bears are headed in the right direction?
“Just a gut feeling,” he said. “Regardless of what happens, I think everybody wants to get things the way they used to be, as far as like, winning and you know, having team unity and when things go wrong, keeping things in house.”
As for Trestman, he fully believes he’s the guy that can turn this thing around.
“Nobody understands the situation better than I do,” he said, after also saying he expects to be back as the Bears’ head coach next season.
This is the same guy who had zero answers this season as his offense completely fell apart. But, once again, his players seem to have a pretty good grasp of what happened.
“Yeah, you can say that,” running back Matt Forte said when asked if the offense was too predictable. “Sometimes we will line up in a formation that we ran a specific play out of a few more times than we should have. Defenses are smart. They watch film, read their keys and they know stuff like that.”
And that’s exactly why after averaging 27.8 points per game last season, the Bears finished the 2014 season scoring less than they did in Lovie Smith’s final season, when Mike Tice was the offensive coordinator.
Of course, that’s just a fact here on Planet Earth, where the rest of us apparently watched different football games than Trestman this season.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for 87.7 The Game and TheGameChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.