When Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler came out of the NFC Championship Game in the third quarter last Sunday against the Green Bay Packers after a putrid first half because of a sprained knee, the reaction among active NFL players, as well as members in the media, was universally negative. Maurice Jones-Drew, a star running back for the Jacksonville Jaguars, tweeted during the game, “the urban meyer rule is in effect right now… When the going gets tough……..QUIT.”
Nationally syndicated sports columnists, like Jason Whitlock of FOXSports.com, echoed Jones-Drew’s thoughts. “In the biggest game of his career, shortly after playing 30 minutes of awful football, Cutler laid down on the Bears and the city of Chicago,” Whitlock wrote Monday.
The idea that Cutler is a quitter is insane. In 2010, Cutler was sacked 52 times, a league high. In Week 4, the New York Giants sacked Cutler 10 times, two short of the NFL record. He’s taken brutal hit after brutal hit in his time at Chicago and has missed only one game in two seasons, due to a concussion. He played with the worst offensive line in football, a mediocre receiving group, and a good, but not great running back, and still led the Bears to 11 wins and to two home playoff games.
Considering the low expectations for Chicago 8212; trust me, I’ve followed this team for almost 15 years 8212; coming in to this season, the citizens of Midway should practically throw him a parade for getting them one game away from a trip to Arlington. Instead, people label him a quitter. Hearing that from the national columnists and other journalists is understandable.
Cutler is well known for not being a big fan of the sports media as a whole and typically gives short, terse answers to questions from reporters, ones that don’t lend themselves to that “money quote” for which sports journalists constantly strive. Rick Reilly noted in a recent column that when a reporter asked Cutler a question about what happened when he threw an interception in a game, Cutler said, “I threw the ball.”
Sports writers just hate that. So it’s no surprise to see them unleash on Cutler when they had the opportunity to criticize him. What was truly shocking was the treatment Cutler received from his fellow players 8212; people like future Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders, the same player who missed several football games as a Dallas Cowboy because of a toe injury, or future Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks, widely considered to be one of the best linebackers to have ever played the game.
The most disappointing part of this character assassination of Cutler? The public did it before we even knew the whole story. Turns out that Cutler ended up with a sprained MCL, which would have sidelined him for up to a month, but this was essentially ignored by others. If you want to criticize Cutler about the incident, talk about how he offered little if any show of support for Caleb Hanie, the third-string quarterback who almost led the Bears to one of the greatest comebacks in playoff history.
Talk about how he was awful in the most important game of his career. But don’t call him a quitter.
News editor Patrick Burns is a senior news-editorial major from Plano.