Brian Urlacher spent the early part of his offseason defending Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, after he left in the third quarter of the NFC Championship match-up against the Packers and didn't return. Green Bay would win that game and then the Super Bowl thanks in large part to the toughness of their quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.
Turns out, Cutler was legitimately injured -- he had a Grade II MCL tear in his knee -- it's just that he didn't appear injured enough for fans, media and other players.
Cue Urlacher, who was vehement in his support of Cutler.
"Who cares what they think?" Urlacher said in January. "That's my response to them. They are not playing in this game. Jay was hurt, obviously. There's no reason for him to be out there if he can't get it done. He was obviously hurt pretty bad or he would have played. For them to question his toughness is stupid to me."
Five months later, Urlacher still gets worked up talking about it. Courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times:
"It was stupid," Urlacher said Sunday, referring to other NFL players who criticized Cutler on Twitter after he left the NFC Championship Game in the third quarter. "Then all the guys that were trying to get attention, it was just dumb to me. They’re not playing, so don’t talk [trash] about someone who is playing.
"If Jay could have been in there, he would have been. That’s all I know. He’s not a little [expletive]. He’s a tough dude. He played hurt, and anyone who watches our games knows how tough he is."
One of Cutler's biggest critics was Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who took to Twitter shortly after Cutler left the NFC Championship game. Urlacher had some thoughts on MJD, too. Again, via the Sun-Times:
"He missed two games," Urlacher said of Jones-Drew, who didn’t play in the final two games of the Jaguars’ 8-8 season. "I don’t know what was wrong with his knee, but don’t sit on the couch and talk about someone who is playing."
One of the issues is that Cutler looks to be perpetually frowning. It's at the other end of the spectrum from Tom Brady (which, in some instances, isn't a bad idea … but it's also okay to look like you haven't just had an accident in your pants), and it's one of the first things fans and media latch on to when he plays poorly.
It's unfair and it doesn't make sense, but that's all part of the deal when you're an NFL quarterback. Criticism isn't well-reasoned, but you're compensated nicely and if you win, you have the run of the place. Which is why in the end, your disposition doesn't matter; it's about results. Kyle Boller was by all accounts a swell guy. Still, he was booed early and often in Baltimore because he wasn't very good. If Cutler wants to quiet his critics, all he needs to do is play better.
Ancillary benefits: it'll lessen the likelihood you will be the butt of political jokes.