Downey: "What did we do wrong? We did nothing wrong!"
Dawson: "Yeah, we did. We were supposed to fight for
the people who couldn't fight for themselves.
We were supposed to fight for Willie."
Those were the words spoken at the conclusion of the trial
scene in a A Few Good Men. They seem pretty appropriate
when thinking about Jay Cutler and how his public trial played
out yesterday in the NFC Title game.
Cutler: "What did I do wrong? I got hurt and couldn't go back
in. The doctors told me so. I did nothing wrong."
NFL players: "Yeah, you did. You were supposed to fight to get
back on the field. You were supposed to go back on that field
and fight for the chance to go to the Super Bowl."
From the moment Jay Cutler came into the league, and probably
before that, he has had the look of a guy who is nonplussed about
everything. He's got the cannon arm, an apparent gift from the football
gods. But the air about him is that he cares very little about that gift or
the outcome of the games he plays. It may not be true. It probably isn't.
But that's the look, the vibe that he gives off. So in the court of public
opinion it isn't hard to try and convict the guy in a 140-character
closing argument, as so many did yesterday via Twitter. In the end,
it seemed like all the players agree. They weren't questioning the
injury, they were questioning the effort he did or didn't make to
get back on the field. The very best thing Cutler could have done
would have been to be seen on camera in an animated discussion
with Love Smith, giving the appearance that he wanted to play.
Instead, he sat on the bench, stood on the sidelines, rode the bike a bit
(showing range of motion) and gave off the vibe he always does, it is what is.
When you play for the Chicago Bears, and you are playing in
the NFC title game, against the Green Bay Packers, and you are
playing in a place called SOLDIER FIELD, the expectation is you
go down dying, not sitting on the bench.
As many Bronco fans noted, this is a guy who pouted his way out
of town when he acted like his name being discussed in trade talks
was an assault on his family. The people I've spoken with, who
have spoken with NFL players, suggest that Cutler isn't well liked
around the league. So if you are not liked and are perceived to be
a non-caring whiner, it's not surprising that people lined up to take
shots at the guy. The same guy, Bears fans fairly pointed out
yesterday, who stood in the pocket and took shots of a different kind
all season long, got back up and played on. There is a poll on
ESPN.Com asking "which is the least likeable person, Cutler,
Michael Vick or Ben Roethlisberger. And with over 50,000
votes, Cutler is "winning" with over 45%. If that's not an
indictment on your perception, I don't know what is.
Jay Cutler may not be able to handle the truth, but perception
is reality. And as long as he has been in the league the
perception has been that winning and losing don't matter.
Yesterday the perception was he didn't fight for Willie. He
didn't care care enough about getting to the Super Bowl.
It may not be fair, but it is what it is.