Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman reviewed footage of his team's 21-19 loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday, and after going “through the tape closely [Monday] morning,” admitted that perhaps he should've gone with backup quarterback Josh McCown sooner than he did.
That's probably not much of a revelation to those who tuned in and watched starting quarterback Jay Cutler put on a courageous performance that should've ended sooner than the club's final offensive drive of the game. Trestman pulled Cutler with 2:17 left to play and inserted backup Josh McCown, who guided the Bears on a 10-play, 74-yard drive capped by an 11-yard scoring strike to Brandon Marshall that pulled the team within two with 47 seconds left to play. Now, Cutler is out indefinitely with a high left ankle sprain.
The club said Cutler's timetable for return is "week to week". Such injuries typically require four to six weeks for a full recovery.
Perhaps Trestman learned from Sunday's experience that he can't rely on Cutler's word when making decisions at the quarterback position. Given Cutler's past as a player known to fight through pain, Trestman should know the quarterback isn't ever about to ask out of a game, which is why the coach needs to trust his gut and make that decision himself if he thinks it puts the team in the best position to win.
“I sit back and look back, and maybe not second guess,” Trestman told WBBM 780 on Monday. “But I went through the tape closely this morning and watched Jay's performance. I thought he did well into the fourth quarter. But at the end of the day, if we had to do it all over again, maybe it would be one series before the two-minute drill.”
Perhaps that move should've taken place even sooner than that.
Cutler completed 12 of 18 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown in the first half, but suffered an ankle injury with 2:56 left in the second quarter when he was hit by Stephen Tulloch on a 12-yard completion to Alshon Jeffery.
With Cutler already limited due to the torn groin muscle sustained exactly 21 days prior to Sunday, the rolled ankle only made matters worse. Trestman said the Bears “took [Cutler's] movements out of the game plan” going into Sunday's game to compensate for his anticipated lack of mobility. The team also tried to prevent the quarterback from putting unnecessary stress on the groin by operating out of the shotgun on 12 of its first 13 snaps on offense, and 25 of 33 snaps in the second half.
Even Marshall said “probably from the second drive [of the game], Cutler “had all kinds of things going on him from his waist down.”
So Cutler's already sore groin, combined with the ankle injury suffered just before the half, brewed up a recipe for disaster.
After Cutler's strong first half, the quarterback came out in the third quarter to complete 3-of-12 for 59 yards, with the majority of that coming on a 44-yard pass to Marshall on his fourth attempt after starting the second half 0-for-3.
As early as the third quarter, Cutler exhibited signs that he was actually hurting the team more than he was helping. Then, early in the fourth quarter, that was especially evident when Cutler short-hopped passes in the direction of Jeffery and Marshall.
“Right before Josh came in, [Cutler] just couldn't move and [was] throwing balls on the ground and misfiring,” Marshall said. “I think we had some discussions on the sideline and Jay was fighting to the end. You leave that [decision to leave the game] up to a competitor like Jay.”
Actually, the Bears shouldn't have left such a decision to Cutler. Because as Marshall said, the quarterback is a competitor, and he's proven throughout his five-year tenure in Chicago that he's about as tough as anybody in the NFL.
But Sunday wasn't about toughness or Cutler's courageous performance. It was about Trestman's No. 1 responsibility, which is to put the Chicago Bears in the most advantageous position to win games. By sticking with Cutler for too long, Trestman didn't do that.
Throughout the game after Cutler hurt the ankle, Trestman said that he, Cutler and McCown kept a running dialogue about the quarterback's physical condition.
Cutler even “asked [Trestman] at one point, ‘Do I look OK? Am I still getting it done?'” to which the coach should've responded, “No,” much sooner than he did, and put in McCown.
“I felt really restricted in the pocket with what I was able to do,” Cutler admitted. “[The ball] wasn't getting out as quick. Some of my throws didn't have as much hum as I wanted. I knew Josh was ready to go, and I just didn't want to get to the point where I was hurting us more than I was helping us.”
Despite a gutsy performance from Cutler, that's actually what transpired, and now there are questions about how soon the quarterback will be able to return from the latest setback. Let's be clear here that Trestman's decision to stay with Cutler for so long didn't cause the Bears to lose to the Lions. That move was just one of many contributing factors.
After all, Cutler fired a laser to Jeffery in the corner of the end zone that should've gone for a touchdown, but the receiver bobbled it as he tried to come down with the catch, and the TD was overturned after a review. On the first play of that drive, officials flagged Matt Slauson for holding as Matt Forte jaunted through Detroit's defense for what should've been a 9-yard touchdown. But it was called back.
There was also the Jeffery drop of what should have been a TD.
“We just didn't make the plays when they were needed offensively; just didn't get it done,” Trestman said. “Everybody took a turn.”