January 26th, 2011
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler got pummeled during and in the 24 hours after the NFC Championship game on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, because he didn’t finish the game due to injury. We all know how it played out: Cutler was horrible in the first half, showed bad body language, which isn’t new, played one series of the second half, then showed more bad body language on the sideline the rest of the game.
Even before the third quarter was over, Cutler was getting blasted on Twitter by fans and former and current players. The Bears rallied, but couldn’t complete the comeback after the final interception inside the Packers red zone, losing 14-21.
During the game, I didn’t call out Cutler for quitting on his team. I went after his body language, questioned his reputation for being a “tough” quarterback (regardless of the injury), and agreed with others who said that Cutler and Brett Favre showed an interesting contrast in playing with pain in a game to go to the Super Bowl. When one person wrote this, I hedged my agreement by saying, “Depends on [his] injury, but yes.”
I think that the people who found it so easy to blast him during the game didn’t think the whole scenario through and may have forgotten that he played in the second half after the injury occurred. Until reports surfaced on Monday that Cutler sprained his MCL, he had been labeled “Jay Quit-ler.”
It’s the NFL, an unbelievably important game, and Cutler was the best chance on offense for the Bears to come back, despite his performance. He gave it a go, but couldn’t. Why do those who ripped him think he would just give up so easy? It is because he hasn’t earned respect or the benefit of the doubt from his peers or the media, so it was easy for people to rush to judgement without any facts.
Since his knee was hurt in the first half, I have to believe that Cutler spent time with the Bears’ medical team in the locker room at halftime and probably did some tests to see how sturdy the knee was. My guess is that it didn’t respond how he and they hoped, but they decided to give it a try, since, you know, they were playing to go to the Super Bowl. The Bears went three-and-out to begin the second half, with Cutler attempting one pass on third down, and his day was done.
I am more troubled by how the Bears organization handled this than how Cutler handled himself. After the game, he, along with Head Coach Lovie Smith, talked about speaking with the medical staff and decided he shouldn’t continue to play. But their explanation stopped there. Bears players, including leader Brian Urlacher, were left to vehemently defend Cutler to the media.
No one bought it. And didn’t for 24 hours, which is a lifetime when there are 24/7 sports maniacs like ESPN, Yahoo, CBSsports, SI.com, etc. After a game of that significance, the Bears needed to come out with something more definitive to take the pressure off Cutler as soon as possible, if for no other reason than to keep us from hearing that people are also questioning his decision to go to dinner after the game with family and friends.
If the game on Sunday was a regular season game, I have my doubts that Cutler would have returned for that first series of the second half. I think the Bears’ medical team, trainers and coaches would have had him in the locker room for further tests (it was a knee injury, after all), and I think the only reason he stayed on the sideline was to support his teammates, which he did a poor job of doing, based on television camera views.
I think I would have acted differently, if I was in his place, but how do I know? He had to be dejected with what was going on in the game and his performance. It’s not like he could have bounced around slapping guys on the shoulder pads with the injured knee – that would have been even worse.
He probably should have shown he was more involved on the sidelines during the game. He didn’t, but people should get over it. I guarantee that PR people for athletes in every sport are using this as a lesson for their clients, telling them that they are always on. Even if they aren’t on the field or court of play, they are on, and people are watching. Which I think is one of the reasons so many who ripped Cutler have started to backpedal from their criticism.
As we found out, when people are watching, they are reacting and commenting for the world to read and see. It’s Twitter’s world, and, for better or worse, we’re all just watching our timeline’s in it.