The ashes of all those burned Jay Cutler jerseys — I thought Rick Reilly reported that no one owned those — are barely cold. The Chicago Sun-Times editorial board hasn’t made Sunday’s Bears loss in the NFC Championship about Obama yet. And there’s finally a diagnosis on the knee injury that knocked Cutler out of the game, which led to (in no particular order) what must be the 54-year-old Todd Collins’s last professional snaps, the ascent of Caleb Hanie to Clint Stoerner/Charlie Batch Respected Third Stringer status, and — arguably — a Bears loss.
The saturnine surl-beast Rick Reilly loves to hate has a torn MCL in his left knee, it turns out, which is the sort of injury that knocks people out of games. And while those of us who make hay on easy Todd Collins jokes will certainly feel his loss acutely, the most interesting larger-scale development this Monday is the way in which the narrative has seemingly turned in favor of the generally unlovable but wildly over-maligned Cutler. Shredded on Twitter by ex-players and armchair Urlachers alike, doubted on-air by blandly odious Bush Family golf buddy Jim Nantz and subjected to a few instant-reaction rip jobs — I read a bunch for today’s Daily Fix, but only used one — Cutler at last seems to be benefiting from a late-awakening sense of shame. Perhaps not so much among the anonymous comment set — although they can presumably expect calls from Jeff Pearlman on this — as from the bylined sideline types who suddenly realized that they were eviscerating a professional football player for imagined wimpiness while themselves dealing with no more serious football-related injury than a brief twinge of “nacho wrist” in the second half.
Or maybe the shame thing wasn’t it. But in what’s probably the most concise and amusingly undermine-y column I’ve read in Cutler’s defense thus far, Yahoo’s Matthew Darnell argues that everything in Cutler’s checkered track record — the wild-eyed back-footed picks, the smirky self-centeredness, the ineffably Cutlerian Cutlerness of Cutler — argues against the “Cutler is a quitter” angle.
The notion that he quit yesterday doesn’t make sense. Cutler was playing poorly, so he wanted out of the game? He was taking a beating, so he didn’t want to play anymore?
Like Jay Cutler has never played poorly or taken a beating before. As a matter of fact, if there’s anything that Jay Cutler has proven in his career, it’s that when he’s throwing interceptions, he is absolutely willing to stay on the field and keep throwing interceptions. It’s his defining trait.
Never once has Jay Cutler gotten gun shy. He has never been accused of not believing in his own ability, as evidenced by his constant willingness to make low-percentage throws into tight windows. No one ever said before yesterday, “Boy, playing poorly really seems to embarrass and affect Jay Cutler.”