Marc Trestman worked as a stockbroker before devoting his life to football. He is, no doubt, familiar with Alan Greenspan, the man who served as chairman of the Federal Reserve for 18 years and coined an interesting term in the mid-1990's before the height of the dot-com bubble. Greenspan questioned "irrational exuberance'' that unduly escalated asset values.
Trestman might be wondering if the same thing is going on with his offense.
Monday night's gaudy performance against the Cowboys — there have been seasons in which you wondered if the Bears could score 45 points in a month — has established a new standard, inflated confidence and set the stage for a potentially disastrous quarterback quandary. Where there is boom, there can be bust, and whatever decision Trestman makes on his Josh-versus-Jay dilemma, there is a likelihood of collapse.
If the playoffs started today, the Bears would be on the outside looking in. The improvement of the offense has been impressive, but failure on defense and special teams has accompanied it. How much more can the Bears offensive improve, and would it matter?
Marvelous as the offense looked, the Cowboys have the worst defense in the NFL. The Bears are the second team not to need to punt against the Cowboys this season. Their defense has allowed 490-plus yards in five games. What the Cowboys defense has allowed this season is more extraordinary than what the Bears offense managed in one game.
Nonetheless, there is an area-wide exuberance, perhaps because nobody around here ever has seen it happen before. There aren't many who can remember how the Bears thrilled the nation with the T formation. And with the league going increasingly to a quarterback-driven, offensive-minded game, the impulse is to want more. The league certainly does with multiple rules changes that encourage scoring and enable offensive production to increase yearly.
Forget rebuilding the defense; get a speed receiver in the first round of the draft. Add an impact tight end, a good offensive lineman, a quarterback to develop to get as good on offense as any team in the league because that is the way things are going.
Week 14 underscored a trend toward offense in the NFL with a league-record 104 touchdowns and 859 points on the weekend. Ten of the 16 games exceeded 50 combined points with three, including Bears-Cowboys, producing 70 points or more and only two games in the 30s.
But while the Bears proved against the Cowboys that they can win a track meet against another team with a bad defense, the larger point is that the Cowboys can't beat a team with a good offense. If defense still wins championships, as the adage goes, then the likely winner will come from the NFC with the top-seeded Seahawks boasting the No. 1 defense in the NFL, followed by the Panthers second, the 49ers fourth and the Saints sixth. The other teams projected to make the NFC playoffs at this point are the Eagles, who rank 30th, and the Lions, who rank 17th.
In the AFC, four of the six projected playoff teams have defenses in the bottom third of the league — the Broncos (25th), Patriots (24th), Colts (28th) and Chiefs (20th). The other two teams are in the top 10 — the Bengals (eighth) and the Ravens (ninth). The two highest-rated defenses in the AFC are the Texans (3rd) and Browns (7th), and they are in last place in their divisions with 2-11 and 4-9 records, respectively.
The Bears were a defensive-driven team last season and won 10 games, only to see the building blown apart. It's a quarterback-driven league, and the Bears either haven't figured out their plan or haven't revealed it.
Quarterbacks win Super Bowls. From Joe Namath to Joe Montana to Tom Brady, you need an elite, franchise player to win a title. If you don't have one, you had better be in good shape with defense and special teams to have a shot.
There has to be balance. Instead, there is simply irrational exuberance.
Special contributor Mike Mulligan co-hosts "The Mully and Hanley Show" weekdays from 5-9 a.m. on WSCR-AM 670.