Monday, January 24, 2011
Cutler drama: A high school catfight
By Kevin Seifert
I found myself falling in total agreement Monday while listening to Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo defend their quarterback's toughness. Nothing in Jay Cutler's playing history suggests he is deficient in that area, and I don't think this 24-hour referendum has truly been about that issue.
"That's the last thing we should have to defend," Smith said. "He's a tough guy."
We touched on this earlier Monday, noting the fascinating part of this news cycle has been the number of players -- retired and active -- who drew dramatic conclusions about Cutler based on what they saw and heard on television. (For now, we'll pass over the irony of NFL players practicing what they always profess to hate about the media: Playing amateur armchair quarterback.)
Rarely, if ever, do you see players questioning the proverbial manhood of a colleague. To do so with second-hand information is weak and usually the job of the media. (Sarcasm alert.)
Seriously, what I don't think we've answered today is whether this occasion was a unique confluence of stage, body language, social media and injury secrecy -- or whether it reflects Cutler's personal standing among scores of current and former players.
The Bears were spitting mad Sunday and Monday, but not upset enough to offer any further details of Cutler's condition. Smith said he had a sprained MCL in his left knee, but would not specify a degree -- Grade 1, 2 or 3 -- that would help explain exactly how debilitated Cutler was when he departed Sunday's game.
Such limited dispersal of injury information is nothing new for an NFL team, but this is one instance where more details might have helped out Cutler. I'm not sure if it would have drowned out his player-critics, but it might have given them less ammunition for their opinions. (Smith did say that Cutler would have been "questionable" to play in Super Bowl XLV.)
Regardless, Smith and Angelo were clearly stunned by the level of vitriol expressed.
"I think it's crap," Angelo said. "I thought they were a union. If that's the way they unionize themselves, they've got bigger issues than the one they have with the owners. I'm very disappointed in that. That to me is dirty pool. It is what it is. People are allowed to say what they want to say, but that doesn't mean it's right and it certainly is not grounded."
Said Smith: "What kind of guy would do that? I mean we're down right now. We lost the game. We're going through quite a bit. So to dog pile a little bit? You have to talk to those guys."
My instinct is to avoid overcomplicating this. One of the most recognizable players in the game left a high-profile, intense playoff game with an injury that wasn't serious enough to prevent him from standing on the sideline. Players watched the scene, were surprised and -- importantly -- felt unencumbered by any personal loyalty or friendship with Cutler as they tweeted away.
Substitute Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers for Cutler and let the same situation play out. Do players around the league hammer Rodgers the same way? Or does he get the benefit of the doubt? I think we know the answer to that question. Unfortunately, high school doesn't always end after you graduate. Sometimes it pays to be popular.