With a 3-5 record midway through the season, the Chicago Bears have fallen short of everyone's expectations. That includes fans and media members, but also players, coaches and front office personnel. Coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery said as much on Monday, when they went into detail about why the team has underperformed and what will be done over the final eight games to fix those mistakes.
Following his press conference, Trestman spoke with ChicagoBears.com for an exclusive one-on-one interview. The head coach explained what he has learned since taking over the job, how injuries have impacted the roster and how the bye week will be spent by the team's players and coaches.
What do you know now about the position of Bears head coach that you maybe didn't know or weren't sure of when you were hired 20 months ago?
I think the day-to-day working part of it is pretty consistent to what I had been used to as a head coach. I think the part that resonates most is how passionate and how much our fan base loves this team; that's number one. And it comes at a really hard time, this conversation, because we are a 3-5 team and I know how disappointed our fan base is with our overall performance. They've seen signs of the team that we can be, but we haven't done it on the consistent basis. So that's the thing for me. Over the 20 months, it's that we want to do things to please our fan base, because they love this team so much.
You spoke of the signs of a strong team. Last year, the Bears offense averaged 27.8 points per game, this year it's down to 22.4. With all 11 offensive starters returning, why have we seen flashes but not much consistency on that side of the ball?
As we said, we haven't played consistently together; that's the real answer. We've played good in parts, but all of us aren't playing consistently together at the same time. And when that happens, you are not going to function the way you'd like offensively. It just hasn't happened that way and that's what we are continually trying to improve and work on is to try and get that done.
Have you been impressed by the depth that the team has shown in light of injuries to key players such as Kyle Fuller, Lance Briggs and Roberto Garza, with guys like Kyle Fuller, Darryl Sharpton and Brian de la Puente stepping in?
That goes to the coaching staff. One of our commitments this year was to make sure we were using every practice squad player, every young player, every free agent player that we had brought in to continually get them reps. Not only to bring them to practice, but to get them to perform at a high level. I give credit to the coaches for the fortitude these guys ready to play. And we've done that throughout, with our draft choices obviously. Ka'Deem Carey is another one, who has performed well when he's had an opportunity to play.
Even with the depth, there still have been injuries. How have those setbacks changed game-plans and lineups?
Injuries are part of the game, they really are. They're a no-excuse part of the game. We have the philosophy of that's why we have to prepare these guys each and every day. Develop our players and get them ready to be the next player up when somebody goes down. So we don't look at injuries being an excuse for us not having success on the field.
One of the things brought up was the 'systematic look' at the team that will be taken during this bye week. What does that entail for you?
Well for me, it entails number one, delegating the responsibilities and issues that need to get done, both offensively and defensively. Obviously, Mel (Tucker) and Joe (DeCamillis) will take over most of that on the defense and special teams sides of the ball, and Aaron (Kromer) and I will work offensively to delineate coaches responsibilities there, in terms of how we are going to look at it.
For instance, offensively, we'll look at our first part of the game play-calls and what defenses we are going to see. Or what are we seeing in the red zone, what is the most-commonly used coverage on 3rd-and-medium. I mean, we are going to break everything down. And then look at how we are working with our players to see if there is things we can do to bring out the best in them. There's nothing magical about this, we aren't going to be pulling things out of the sky. But there will be that resonate based on experience that will help us get better in the second half.
With the break, do you look at the upcoming schedule, to see what you have to do? The Bears have five of their six divisional games still to be played on the season, which is a chance to make up some ground.
The team knows that the most important thing is to get ready for the Packers (in Week 10), and that's what we are thinking about. If there's any positive to a 3-5 record, and there really on the surface isn't, it's that we've had a hard road in terms of travel. We've developed a backbone through all this and it could, inevitably, strengthen us as we move forward. But our focus, in and out of the bye, are the Packers and getting ready to play one more game.
Finally, the first thing you mentioned in your press conference is turnover margin. Why is that so important to the team's success?
It's a priority. When we say turnover margin, we are not only talking about giveaways, but we are talking about takeaways. And there has to be continuity football and complimentary football involved in both. So each and every day, our primary focus of practice is creating an environment in practice where we can get better in doing both. Protecting the football number one, and we coach it hard. But also dislodging the football and finding ways to take the ball away. And that entails 11 doing their job in that phase of football.