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We’ll learn a lot about Marc Trestman on Sunday vs. Packers

Marc Trestman Jay Cutler Bears blew one chance clinch NFC North title. They get second — better — opportunity against

Marc Trestman, Jay Cutler and the Bears blew one chance to clinch the NFC North title. They get a second — and better — opportunity against the Packers. | AP

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Updated: January 27, 2014 12:46PM



The course of the Marc Trestman era with the Bears is unlikely to be altered by Sunday’s all-or-nothing regular-season finale against the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field.

No matter what happens, Trestman will return next season (unlike last season, when Lovie Smith’s fate was sealed in Week 17). Nothing quarterback Jay Cutler does is likely to change general manager Phil Emery’s mind about his desire to sign Cutler to a long-term contract. Win or lose, the Bears still will have to rebuild their defense in 2014. And with Trestman in charge, the Bears’ offense — with or without Cutler — will take another step forward, perhaps another giant leap, next season. The Bears could be 12-4 or 4-12 next season regardless of what happens Sunday.

That said, the success of Trestman’s first season hinges on beating the Packers and making the playoffs. Ultimately, this is why the Bears fired Smith — he couldn’t get his team over this very hump. Under Lovie, the Bears were one extreme or the other — a No. 1 or 2 seed or out of the playoffs. In an era where squeaking into the playoffs is a potential jackpot — the last three ­Super Bowl winners have played on wild-card weekend — you have to find a way to be just good enough when you have the chance.

Trestman treats every game as a singular event — a season in and of itself. But this one is much bigger than that. This is the big game. This is the moment that will define the season as a success or ... not.

‘‘I wouldn’t even begin to think about that right now,’’ Trestman said Monday. ‘‘To me, success is what you do on that day and the work you put into it on a day-by-day basis. That’s how I evaluate it.’’

That’s one way. Here’s another way: Can your team win when it needs it most? Regardless of what has transpired — the injuries, the backup quarterback playing seven games, the missed field goal on second down, the ill-fated decision to play Cutler against the Lions — when your team has the chance to put the hammer down, can it do that? Can your team rise to the occasion or will itself to victory if need be? That’s one mark of a playoff team. That’s one mark of a well-coached team.

The Bears blew one ­opportunity to clinch the NFC North when they crapped out in embarrassing fashion in a 54-11 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles — a team that has been just as good and bad as the Bears — at Lincoln Financial Field.

Now the Bears are getting a second chance they might or might not deserve after the most uneven of seasons in 2013. Not only a second chance, but a better chance — at home against a Packers team that will have backup Matt Flynn at quarterback or Aaron Rodgers playing for the first time in eight weeks. It’s not as if the Bears faced the Seahawks and Panthers in the final two weeks of the season.

Sunday’s game might be more telling than we know. In Pete Carroll’s first season in Seattle in 2010, the Seahawks had lost five of six games heading into Week 17. But ­after allowing 40, 34 and 38 points in their previous three games, they came up with a supreme effort to beat the Rams 16-6 in a winner-take-all finale to make the playoffs with a 7-9 record.

It’s not a coincidence that the Seahawks have taken off from there and are the favorite to win the Super Bowl. And Carroll clearly is the reason why. That well-timed performance in the 2010 finale is what you call an indicator of better things to come. Marc Trestman, it’s your move.

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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