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Tuesday, October 2, 2012
The Jay Cutler personality debate is over

By Kevin Seifert

Jay Cutler
It's becoming clear that Bears fans are willing to put up with Jay Cutler's pouting if he performs.
Here's what I've learned during the 18-odd hours since Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler twice walked away from offensive coordinator Mike Tice during a second-quarter sideline scene: You're over it.

You're bored with the subject, suspicious of the motives for its continued revival and no longer feel illuminated by the discussions. You're not necessarily defending Cutler's virtues, but you believe the point was made long ago and now we're all just piling on.

Via Twitter, @bearsoline wrote: "What cares what happens at insignificant moments?" Noting Cutler's stellar performance in the Bears' 34-18 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, @J3reinhold wants the media to "get over it. He can't win with you guys."

In our Tuesday SportsNation chat, Doc of Chicago wrote: "People are really making too much out of Jay's sideline antics. Jerk? Probably. How many players have gone to the sideline and yell at coaches, players, smash equipment, etc.?"

And Cutler himself, speaking Tuesday afternoon on his ESPN 1000 radio show , said: "If I yell on the sideline, I get killed. If I don't say anything I get killed. If I walk away, I get killed. It's a no-win situation."

I've been wrong before, but my sense on Tuesday is that we've reached a tipping point in how we view the Bears quarterback. Cutler's career of pouty moments, emotional outbursts and questionable decisions has lowered the standard for what is acceptable behavior from him. (As long as he plays as well as he did Monday night, of course.)

Let's be clear. I'm not ready to concede that it's tolerable to be disrespectful of a coach, which is absolutely what Cutler was when he twice ignored Tice's attempt to discuss a failed third-and-1 play. Cutler said Tuesday that "it wasn't anything about Mike" and that the two eventually talked through the play, but to me that doesn't erase his initial reaction.

Several retired players, who presumably know the difference between what is normal and not on an NFL sideline, agreed. Former Bears tight end Desmond Clark tweeted: "Jay has to stop with his antics. Leadership leadership leadership leadership." Former NFL lineman Ross Tucker tweeted: "Must be so hard for Mike Tice to not just choke slam Jay Cutler. I bet 20 years ago he would've smoked him."

Regardless, the bigger picture is that most people are tired of seeing Cutler held to a standard he clearly isn't interested in meeting. You've found other ways to view his leadership abilities, and I'm willing to acknowledge that he did plenty on and off the field over the past few days to make Monday night's victory possible.

In addition to playing one of the most efficient games of his career, as the chart shows, Cutler also has taken on an important role in managing volatile receiver Brandon Marshall. Last week, Cutler apparently talked Marshall out of some frustration that built over the past few weeks as the Bears' offense struggled.

"I just wanted him to play within the system and play a full game," Cutler said. "Not worry about the plays being called, not worry about the balls coming to him or where they're going. Play Bears football. Play like he did in Denver with us and let it come to him.

"I'm probably more level-headed on the field, believe it or not, than Brandon. Lot of highs and lows. But when he's playing well, he's hard to stop. We've just got to keep him [on that] even level and playing within the system and try to get him the ball as much as possible. That's my job."

Marshall caught seven of the eight passes Cutler threw his way for a season-high 138 yards. I'm perfectly willing to connect Marshall's performance with Cutler's leadership over the past week. He helped make a teammate better, and that's absolutely part of leadership.

Cutler isn't a perfect person or player. None of us are. Perhaps more of you would have turned on him had the Bears lost Monday night, but it sure seems like you're willing to acknowledge -- now more than ever -- that he is what he is. And you prefer that over Cutler making some kind of cosmetic personality change that pleases the media police.

"I'm not an actor," Cutler said. "I don't now where the cameras are at all times. I'm playing football."

Monday night, he played it quite well. His greatest achievement, however, might have been rendering moot the ongoing discussion about his personality. It's not that it doesn't matter. It just appears to be old news for everyone. The "Jay Cutler is not nice" news cycle is over. You get it. You've adjusted your sights accordingly and you're ready to move on. Fine with me. I can't say I'll never mention this topic again, but I'm now fully aware that it's going to take quite an incident to move the dial again. Onward and upward. ...