Cutler’s performance, or should I say non-performance, has sparked a heated conversation on whether or not fans and former players should judge a player’s toughness on the field.
Cutler didn’t play well in the first half. He went 6/14 for 80 yards. He had no touchdowns and one interception. The faithful Chicago fans often booed Cutler and his performance. Then, in the third quarter, Cutler left the game with his now infamous knee injury. He sat blank-faced as the team’s third-string quarterback, Caleb Hanie, tried his best to pull out a victory over the Packers. Of course, Hanie, who is a CSU Ram, played much better than Cutler and almost pulled out a victory even if he didn’t actually prepare for playing against Green Bay’s defense the week before. (Hanie played the role of Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers in the practices leading up to the game preparing Chicago’s defense.) Hanie gave his team a chance going 13/20 for 153 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions. He gave a valiant effort in the 21-14 loss.
Cutler, on the other hand, what did he do? Did he seriously get hurt? Did he give up on his team? Did his pride get hurt? Does he even care? If I were a Chicago fan who spent $170 to get into Soldier Field that afternoon, I would demand some answers. Perhaps the question everyone should be asking is: Was Jay Cutler hurt or was he injured?
That was the question a coach I had in high school asked every player who limped off the field. “Are you hurt or are you injured?” We were usually just hurt and ended up playing the rest of the game.
Jay Cutler looked hurt. No limping. No cart. No grimacing pain. No crutches. Now only Jay Cutler can be the one to tell us all if he was actually hurt or injured. If he really was injured, next time he should put on a better show of being injured on the sidelines. At least act injured, or at least act interested in the success of the third-string quarterback who has been hopelessly thrown to the dogs midfield. Put on a headset. Give some advice. Act like you care. Do something, Jay, other than looking hangover on the sidelines.
For those who say we shouldn’t question a player’s toughness, I have to ask what game they are watching. Football is 100 percent about toughness. Football is about facing adversity and playing with toughness to fight through that adversity.
I would be willing to say Jay Cutler is physically tough. He has been sacked and hit a ton this season and has scraped himself up off the turf plenty of times. He can take pain. What Jay Cutler doesn’t have is mental toughness. In the game of life, he has played poorly. As the game went on, the pressure to play better increased. He had to make some plays or Chicago was going to lose at the hands of an ineffective Jay Cutler offense.
So when Cutler felt that little knee wobble, he saw an out. It was his opportunity to leave the game and the loss to another quarterback. Jay Cutler has too much pride to stay in that game and lose in front of the home crowd. It wasn’t a question of physical toughness, it was a question of mental toughness. Jay Cutler didn’t have it.
In the AFC Championship later that day, the even younger Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez faced adversity when his team was down 24-3 at halftime. He took a hit that looked to rip his throwing arm out of socket. He was in visible pain. We all wondered, Phil Simms included, if the pretty boy from Southern California was going to have the physical and mental toughness to get back in the game and lead the team. To everyone’s surprise, Sanchez toughed it out and made a game of it. He also in his second year made a name for himself, proving that he isn’t just the young Southern California pretty boy quarterback on the field, he’s a pro quarterback who knows what it takes to win. It took toughness to bring the Jets back into the game and we all saw it.
We all saw toughness in last year’s NFC Championship as well. Before he threw that game-ending and terrible interception, old man Brett Favre was putting on a display of toughness as well. How he even walked on those bruised and battered ankles is beyond me. Brett Favre may be a lot of things. I know for sure that he is mentally and physically tough. No question.
Questioning Jay Cutler’s toughness is not an absurd question as many have said. A good NFL team needs an offensive leader that has the grit to fight through adversity – to have the guts to lose an NFC Championship. Jay Cutler doesn’t have that toughness. You can have all the throwing and running skills in the world but if you don’t have the toughness to fight through the tough times on the field, the skills are worthless. Jay Cutler proved that last weekend.