By Brian Spencer
The fervor has died down as quickly as it arose. His critics have been slammed by those factions of the Chicago Bears organization, and its fanbase, who weren’t calling for Cutler’s head on a Wisconsin cheese-stuffed platter. His jerseys are not being burned, the trade rumors have been dismissed.
The facts about what happened to Jay Cutler during Sunday’s loss to the Packers have emerged: yes, he actually was felled by a semi-serious ailment: Grade II MCL sprain or partial tear, an injury that typically causes players to miss 3-4 games.
So, great. Let’s give the guy a break. “I’m very disappointed. That, to me, is dirty pool,” said Bears GM Jerry Angelo. ” Tight end Greg Olsen said “[he] thinks it’s insane.” But perhaps most notably, third-string backup Calib Hanie (who let’s all agree performed remarkably well, all things considered) had this to say about his embattled teammate: “He didn’t want to let his teammates down. So if he could have been on the field and been productive for the team, he would have done it.”
I’m sure that’s true: his knee probably felt pretty fucked up, and it probably would have been irresponsible to let him go back on the field. The guy was getting pounded by well-timed blitzers and a bloodthirsty Packers pass rush, and I’m not sure that he would have made enough of a difference in the second half to save his Bears anyway. Though it tightened up at the end, the Packers are clearly the better team.
A MCL tear can be just as big of a deal as a minor concussion, yet nobody would have been questioning Cutler is he’d suffered the latter instead.
No, I don’t have a problem with Cutler not going back in the game. But it’s the second sentence of Hanie’s comment, that if Cutler “could have been on the field and been productive for the team, he would have done it.” Fine, he couldn’t be productive on the field… but he definitely had the capacity to try and be productive off of it. That’s the one thing that seems to have been lost in all this scuttlebutt about his knee: Cutler’s desultory sulking on the sidelines was embarassing.
More than anything, I’m shocked about Cutler’s post-injury demeanor, especially given the fact that injured knee or not he could still walk around, or at least stand on it. Instead, he sat there on the bench, with that… that… I don’t know what to call it: the Things Aren’t Going Well for Jay Cutler Face? You know the one, just like you know what the Things Aren’t Going Well for Eli Manning Face looks like.
He sat there without saying much of anything to his teammates. He sat there, at least from what we could see at home, without giving an enthusiastic brain dump (oh, c’mon, get your head out of the gutter) to Hanie and Todd “We’ve Probably Seen the Last of Him in the NFL” Collins about what the Packers defense was doing, what he saw out there in the first half. The tendencies he’d begun to pick up on, where the rush was coming from the strongest, etc. Maybe he was having spirited discussions with them off camera, but it sure didn’t look like it… and you know they’ve would’ve flashed over there to catch that if it were happening.
Cutler was not rousing his teammates, slapping shoulder pads, rallying them as their
figurehead leader! Where was the off-field tenacity? Where was the heart of a winning quarterback? In a similar situation, could you imagine Tom Brady quietly sitting off to the side, cowering underneath an oversized jacket, while his teammates were battling for the AFC championship? Or Peyton Manning? Brett Favre (in his prime)? Drew Brees?
But that’s kind of who we’ve all thought Jay Cutler is, right? A kid with a big arm, and a true playmaker (from time to time)… but not necessarily your rock. In fact, probably not your rock. A wild card upstairs at the most critical position on the team.
Cutler is a fine quarterback who can put up big numbers and help his team win a lot of games. Any criticisms leveled at him about not finishing the 2010 NFC Championship, on the field, are misguided. But, there’s a lot of talk in sports about that indefinable quality found in the best players: you know, “it”. He has “it” or he doesn’t have “it”.
Does Cutler have it?
Based on what I saw on that sideline on Sunday, and what I’ve seen the first five years of his NFL career, I have to say no, not yet. Not even close.
Jay Cutler Photo Credit: Icon SMI