I never thought I'd write a feature for this site with that headline. Me? Defend Jay Cutler? I've never been a huge fan of his; his body (and spoken) language are all wrong for a guy who's chosen a career as a public figure in one of the most high-profile sports and high-profile cities in America.
His contributions to the Bears on the field have been mixed. At times he looks like a winner, with an arm that can sling a ball 70+ yards in the air; at times he doesn't look much better than Jonathan Quinn or Rick Mirer.
When you see him out on the town with Kristin Cavallari, you wonder, "What does she see in him?" She's a TV star in her own right -- can't be a gold-digger. Well, there must be something; celebrities dating each other is sometimes for their own self-protection against that kind of thing.
Anyway, the point of this article is to defend Jay Cutler against the unbelievable Twitterbashing he took yesterday -- some of it from current NFL players.Derrick Brooks, formerly of the Bucs:
HEY there is no medicine for a guy with no guts and heart
Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jaguars:
Hey I think the urban meyer rule is effect right now... When the going gets tough........QUIT..
Kerry Rhodes of the Cardinals:
Cmon cutler u have to come back. This is the NFC championship if u didn't know!
Darnell Dockett of the Cardinals:
"Jay Cutler thinking out loud* mannn I'm glad he threw that pic to #90 cuz I did not want to get blame for this Lost!
And if that wasn't enough, two players-turned-broadcasters; first, Deion Sanders:
Folks i never question a players injury but i do question a players heart. Truth
And, the guy everyone loves to hate, Mark Schlereth:
As a guy how had 20 knee surgeries you'd have to drag me out on a stretcher to Leave a championship game! #justsaying
And that's not to mention the thousands of fans who took to Twitter and Facebook to bash Cutler and create "Jay Quitler" T-shirts and generally question everything about him. His personality doesn't help -- sitting on the back of the bench, wearing the huge overcoat and a frown on his face, doesn't give the image of a guy who wants to give everything for his team.
And yet -- Cutler's teammates defended him, to a man. Now, you might say, "What else are they going to say?" But they could have said nothing. Instead, they vociferously defended him. Not one of us knows what goes on in sports clubhouses or how the players get along or who shows leadership in them, although we can get an idea of that from the players' public personas. Cutler either doesn't want to, doesn't care, or doesn't know how to be the sunny public QB that Tom Brady or Peyton Manning is. The demands of modern media have created this monster -- when we find a modern athlete who's unwilling or unable to meet them, we either ask or demand their demise, and I admit I've been part of that -- not thinking Jay Cutler can be a "franchise quarterback", as he was supposed to be when he came to Chicago, whatever "franchise quarterback" means. That's as much a media creation as an actual position within a football team; the Bears made the Super Bowl with Rex Grossman as their starting QB, and he's about as far from anyone's idea of "franchise quarterback" as Craig Krenzel or Cade McNown.
The Bears lost yesterday, after a season made possible by a lot of good fortune (calls and games going their way and good health being two of the major factors); many of us, myself included, likely felt deep down (even if we weren't able to admit it) that this year's Bears didn't really belong in the NFC Championship Game.
Beyond that, there's the nastiness that inhabits the internet. It's not only the Cutler-bashing that was over the top, it was the namecalling between Bears and Packers fans. Why can't we just enjoy what turned out to be a highly entertaining game between two good sports teams, without insulting the cities or their inhabitants with junior-high sniggering innuendo? Is it really that much fun to sit behind a keyboard and do that? Those who do so ought to look in a mirror and think about what kind of human being's reflection is staring back at them.
It appears that Jay Cutler really is injured, to the point that if Caleb Hanie had been able to lead the Bears to the Super Bowl, Hanie might have had to start. And therein lies a possible reason why he isn't; it's clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that Todd Collins has no more business on an NFL field than I do. Yet, for some reason, Lovie Smith felt Collins should play ahead of Hanie. Two disastrous series later, he finally made the right call.
If you criticize something in the Monday morning aftermath of the loss, criticize bad coaching decisions. But don't come down too hard on Jay Cutler. He still may be the "Pouty QB" in public. But he is, apparently, as tough as they come.