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Marc Trestman makes key calls but gives players the credit

Updated: January 18, 2014 6:28AM



Jay Cutler’s performance in the Bears’ 38-31 victory Sunday over the Browns muted the impact of national media reports of a fracture in the Bears’ locker room over coach Marc Trestman’s decision to bench red-hot Josh McCown in favor of Cutler.

On the contrary, now it sounds like some Bears would have been more perturbed if Trestman had stuck with McCown and kept the best quarterback on the team on the bench.

‘‘The good thing is, Trestman was a man of his word when he said that when Jay was 100 percent, he was getting his job back,’’ offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod said. ‘‘It means a lot. He was being true to his team, true to his word. And that means a lot to our team.’’

Bushrod’s unsolicited comment resonated at Halas Hall a day after Cutler justified Trestman’s decision to start him after a five-week layoff. This is a critical time of the season, and things like trust and coaching might or might not make a difference but can’t be overlooked.

Trestman kept insisting that it’s not about him with two regular-season games to play and a postseason berth still in the balance. But it’s all about him whether he likes it or not. The Bears fired Lovie Smith because his teams failed to make the playoffs in five of six seasons after reaching the Super Bowl in the 2006 season. Now Trestman finds himself in similar territory. Going into the ‘‘Monday Night Football’’ game between the Lions and Ravens, the possibility existed that Trestman’s Bears (8-6) also could finish 10-6 and miss the playoffs.

Trestman was hired to make a difference. But that’s the last thing on his mind this week as the Bears prepare for the Eagles on Sunday night in Philadelphia.

‘‘I don’t overestimate the importance of any of this,’’ he said when asked about the role of leadership. ‘‘There’s a job to do, and the job is to create the environment every day to succeed. And I don’t try to make anything more of that.’’

Trestman downplayed his role at every turn.

‘‘The players play, and the players make the plays. I don’t give too much credit for the play-call itself,’’ Trestman said when told that Cutler said he was in a groove as a play-caller. ‘‘The guys are out there doing the work. When you call a play and everybody does what they’re supposed to do, most of them work. It’s not really the play-call. It’s the players.’’

When the Bears fired Smith last season, they were looking for not only a better offensive coach, but a coach with better luck. Smith saw the 2010 season go awry when Johnny Knox slipped and Cutler threw an interception, then suffered a broken thumb chasing the interceptor.

On Sunday, Cutler had a 70.3 passer rating in the fourth quarter with two interceptions — one returned for a touchdown — and Trestman was headed for a defeat that would subject him to serious second-guessing for starting Cutler instead of McCown and all but seal 2013 as a failed season.

When Cutler was hit while throwing a deep ball to Alshon Jeffery, he threw a high fly ball that even Cutler thought was a certain interception. Instead, Browns safety Tashaun Gipson somehow misjudged the pop-up, and Jeffery adjusted to make a fabulous catch for a touchdown that sparked the Bears to victory.

But whether it’s luck, play-calling or making the tough decision, Trestman is staying out of it. His role is to let the players make the difference.

‘‘I try to keep it simple with the players,’’ he said. ‘‘ ‘Here’s what we have to do to win today and put ourselves in a better position to win on Sunday.’ That’s how I approach each week.’’

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @markpotash



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