You can't win in the NFL without a quarterback.
You can't win in the NFL with your quarterback on his back.
And you can't win in the NFL with your quarterback on his back, looking up at the stars — seeing stars.
If it sounds simple, it's because it is simple, and yet it seemed an intergalactic equation and out of reach of the previous Bears coaching staff.
So Jay Cutler took beating after beating after beating to the point where you weren't certain any longer of Cutler's value. After all, how much of his inconsistency and poor decision-making was due to his belief that he was about to get smoked again?
A fair question.
It has been apparent since Marc Trestman got here that he will not sacrifice Cutler just to keep a drive alive, score a touchdown or even win a game.
Not that the Bears were in danger of losing at any point in the second half Sunday night, but Trestman is clearly willing to lose a game to save his quarterback, which in essence means he's willing to lose a game to save a season.
It's why he went long stretches with conservative play-calling after the Steelers began to hit Cutler hard.
And why not?
The game was in hand and Trestman felt they could dial it up again if necessary, which they did after the Steelers got close. But this thinking is a reminder of how reckless the Bears have been with Cutler in the past, risking limb and possibly life with big leads or huge deficits and little conceivable reward.
Sunday night postgame, Trestman explained why the Bears went into a bit of a shell in the second half.
“The (Steelers) amped up their game,” Trestman said. “There were some internal blitzes. We tried to run the ball a little bit. We couldn't do it. We had some second-and-longs and third-and-longs, which were very difficult to convert.
“They played a couple of oddball coverages, which we were finally able to unlock by getting Brandon Marshall outside on the go route. They're a good football team and a really good defense. We just kept trying to keep sawing wood and working to try to make some plays.”
It is not in Cutler's nature to play it safe, but Trestman called him “unselfish” for making the smart plays and protecting the football. Still, Cutler said it's not easy for him to remain so patient, though it's possible this is a genuine sign of growth.
“It's not something I'm used to,” Cutler said. “We have been preaching ball security a lot. It was just that type of game to get up that quickly like that. We were sitting pretty good early on and we didn't want to give them anything easy.
“Especially when they started getting a little momentum, we didn't want to force the ball. We didn't want to give them positioning in our territory. We just wanted to be patient and we caught them in man there on that last play and we were able to get a big one to Earl (Bennett).”
An intellectual and entirely logical approach to coaching and playing the quarterback position. Hmmm. While you ponder that for an hour or so, consider that Trestman stopped short Sunday night of admitting that he was merely trying to save his quarterback from an unnecessary beating.
Until Monday, when he said precisely that.
“We tried to do everything we could to keep Jay clean,” Trestman said Monday afternoon when he met reporters. “A lot of bodies around the line of scrimmage last night and a lot of it coming from a lot of different places.
“Once you get up plus-2 or plus-3 in turnovers, you know you have a very good chance to win the game and you want to take care of your quarterback along the way.
“I certainly flew home thinking we could have done better offensively. The play-calling could have been better. There are some situations we'd like to have back. But at the end of the day, you were giving up some of that to protect the quarterback.”
Startling, isn't it? Maybe this is how it's supposed to be in every NFL city and maybe it is in most, but it's simply shocking in Chicago to hear the head coach say that he's trying to keep the QB from getting his head bashed in.
Frankly, it's astonishing to hear the head coach talk about offense as anything other than an annoying distraction.
This will take some getting used to.
ŸHear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.