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Updated: January 4, 2014 6:28AM
It was Robert Half who said, “Not admitting a mistake is a bigger mistake.’’ I have loved, embraced and lived by that quote ever since Monday, when I Googled “quotes about people who won’t admit mistakes.’’
I was wholly unaware of who Half was until I Googled his name and learned he was the founder of a national employment agency for accountants. It seemed too good to be true because Bears coach Marc Trestman, our subject today, is dealing with accountability issues, math difficulties, stubbornness over mistakes and, perhaps, long-term employment questions.
Trestman had a very bad day Sunday, when he sent in Robbie Gould for a 47-yard field-goal attempt on second-and-seven in overtime instead of using a down or two to get more yards against a bad Minnesota defense. Gould’s kick was wide right by inches, meaning the exact same kick probably would have been good from, say, 44 yards. The Vikings went on to win 23-20.
After the game, Trestman said he had been worried his offense might fumble or draw a penalty on second down. The next day at Halas Hall, nothing had changed in terms of this thinking.
“We were in the middle of the field, well within Robbie’s distance, and the decision is not anything that I regret,’’ he said.
Not even passive-voice, “mistakes were made’’ PR spin.
If the refusal to own up to a mistake were an isolated incident with Trestman, it might be easier to dismiss. But Trestman has shown an intractability when it comes to admitting errors.
We saw it when he refused to budge after his decision to play a limping, ineffective Jay Cutler in most of a Nov. 10 loss to the Lions, rather than insert a healthy, frisky Josh McCown.
“No regrets here,’’ Trestman had said afterward.
We saw it again when he told reporters he liked his play-calling on second- and third-and-one late in the fourth quarter against the Vikings. The two running plays went for no gain, and the Bears punted.
If they win those winnable Lions and Vikings games, they’re 8-4 today instead of 6-6.
You can’t learn from your mistakes if you don’t think they’re mistakes.
Trestman said Monday that he often questions his decisions.
“You do look back and ask yourself, ‘What other options did I have and would they have worked under the circumstances?’ ’’ he said.
And? Wouldn’t that kind of self-evaluation bring him to a different conclusion the day after the kick? No, he said.
He had watched a crazy game lurch about and didn’t want to further antagonize the football gods. A penalty already had wiped out a Vikings field goal in overtime. An interception had done in a Vikings drive at the Bears’ 1-yard line in the fourth quarter.
What any of that had to do with the Bears’ offense, I don’t know.
The message Trestman sent to his offense on Gould’s overtime attempt was not a pleasant one. It all but said, “You are not to be trusted.’’
It’s hard to find any solid rationale for what Trestman chose to do in overtime. He said 47 yards is in Gould’s range. Yeah? So is 50 yards. And 55 yards, for that matter. But Gould’s chances of making a field goal increase as the distance decreases. And, don’t forget, running back Matt Forte had averaged 5.2 yards per carry leading up to the kick and hadn’t fumbled.
I like Trestman. I like his attention to detail on and off the field. I like that he treats people with decency and fairness. He seems to genuinely care about his players. And he has played a huge role in turning the previously unremarkable McCown into a good quarterback.
But he seems to be under the impression that making a decision means justifying it to the bitter end. That’s a weakness in a coach, and it doesn’t play well with many Chicagoans, some of whom have quaint ideas about genuine accountability. If Trestman doubts that, he might want to check out the Twitter world from the last 36 hours or so.
It was a brutal loss for the Bears, who entered the game with playoff hopes and left with a .500 record. Trestman can rightly point to three or four moments when the Bears could have put away the game. But the decision to kick on second down reduced those moments to footnotes. That’s the way it works. Some decisions are bigger than others. Some are dumber than others.