It’s never going to end, so you might as well get used to it.
Every season, the inevitable Jay Cutler blowup feeds a national media frothing to crucify the Chicago Bears quarterback. The criticism goes far beyond his play on the field and, in fact, almost always has more to do with those things non-football related. He’s been criticized for his body language on the field, for his off-the-field demeanor, his press conferences, for not playing through injuries, for his girlfriend, and pretty much everything else one can think of.
This extends beyond the media to current and former players and coaches. When Cutler went down with a sprained knee in the NFC Championship game two seasons ago, a handful of players sitting on their couches during that contest questioned his dedication to the game.
His recent explosion during Thursday night’s contest has elicited the ire of former players Tedy Bruschi, Terry Bradshaw, Lomas Brown and former Bears captain Adewale Ogunleye, among many others.
"If you live in a glass house, you can’t throw any stones,” Ogunleye said. “So the way I am looking at the game, no one is yelling at Jay when he is throwing the ball three (four) times to their defenders. And you’ve got to have some sense of accountability. At the end of the day, you start losing the respect of your teammates, you start losing the respect of that offensive line when publicly you’re bumping people and yelling at them in their face. I don’t think it is the right thing to do.”
QB Jay Cutler
Benny Sieu/US Presswire
Cutler was twice seen berating left tackle J’Marcus Webb, once shoving his way past the offensive lineman. Even his current teammates feel his behavior crossed a line.
“I don’t think you can act like that,” CB D.J. Moore said yesterday. “To make it seem like it’s just my fault or what not, I think it’s just wrong, though, honestly. I would feel some kind of way if he was to do me like that, to make it seem like, ‘Well, the reason I’m having a bad game is because is what you’re doing and not about me taking accountability for myself because I’m throwing these type of passes and doing these type of reads.’ It’s a tough situation.’’
At this point, one thing is clear: many people in and around the game of football do not like Cutler. The animosity comes from all sides, even his own locker room, so it’s hard to sit here and say EVERYONE has the wrong opinion of him. Having covered the Bears for more than a year, I completely understand the animosity.
Yet as far as J’Marcus Webb is concerned, it was a long time coming. I have absolutely no issue with the way Cutler treated Webb. The Bears have given up 105 sacks the past two seasons, easily the most in the league over that span. All but a handful of those sacks were on Cutler, who has taken a beating unlike any other QB in the league since coming to Chicago.
Much of the blame should be heaped on a front office that, through two different GMs, has not upgraded the offensive line. In essence, the team has shown Cutler they don’t feel him valuable enough to give him protection up front.
“Hey Jay, we know you’re our franchise quarterback but we’re not worried about you getting crushed 10-20 times per game. We have to get more defensive linemen, don’t you understand?”
So Cutler has to deal with a former seventh-round pick protecting his blindside. Last year, Pro Football Focus (PFF) ranked Webb the 65th best offensive tackle in the league in terms of pass protection. He gave up 12 sacks, second worst in the league. As a rookie at right tackle in 2010, PFF ranked Webb the 77th tackle in the league. His 11 sacks allowed that year were again second worst in the NFL.
Throughout his two-plus years with the Bears, Webb has shown almost no improvement as a pass protector. He has the physical tools to be a successful offensive lineman but he continues to bend at the west and lunge at speed rushers. He often stops moving his feet as well and just watches opposing defensive ends blow by him and destroy his quarterback.
This isn’t a case of Webb being too small, too slow or too un-athletic. No, these are mental mistakes that he makes over and over. At some point, when is it enough? When will Webb begin taking pride in his performance and keep Cutler clean?
Blame should also go to Mike Tice, who has insisted since being signed as the team’s offensive line coach in 2010 that Webb can be a starting offensive tackle. Despite all the horrible results on the field, Tice keeps throwing Webb out there on game days. Tice doesn’t have a problem changing the interior of the offensive line – he benched LG Chris Spencer in favor of Chilo Rachal this week – but Webb apparently can’t do any wrong.
So if you were Cutler, wouldn’t you be tired of a front office giving you no support, offensive coordinators that continue to put Webb on the edge, and a blindside protector who is more worried about J’Webb Nation than he is about keeping his head in the game?
Sure, Cutler went way over the line, there’s no denying that. He even said today on ESPN 1000 that he should’ve handled the situation better.
“I probably shouldn’t have bumped him,” Cutler said. “As far as me yelling at him and trying to get him going in the game, I don’t regret that.”
His actions were unprofessional to say the least. But were they justified? Absolutely.
The problem is not with Cutler’s actions, despite the mass of folks frantically crawling over each other to hop on the pile. The problem is how Cutler lets problems affect him on the field. Once he started to get hurried and after his anger had boiled over, he began to play horribly. He made awful decisions and used bad technique, resulting in four interceptions.
Throwing off his back foot into double coverage is the problem, not his treatment of Webb. Cutler must learn to take the good with the bad and have a short memory. He can’t let bad plays lead to meltdowns. It’s counterproductive, especially during big games on big stages.
Cutler isn’t the only talented quarterback with a fiery attitude the NFL has seen. Hall of Famer Dan Marino exploded on his receivers on a weekly basis, yet he’s still considered one of the greatest passers in league history.
You know the other similarity between Cutler and Marino? Neither have Super Bowl rings. That won’t change unless Cutler learns to keep his emotions in check.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.