Jay Cutler: How Do You Quit in the Biggest Game of Your Life?

Rick WeaverCorrespondent IJanuary 24, 2011

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 23:  Quarterback Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears reacts in the second quarter against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The big question floating around the NFL since Sunday's playoff games is how a guy, who has played on mediocre teams since coming into the NFL, finally got his big chance to play in an NFC Championship game, which could have possibly led him to a shot at a Superbowl, could simply decide to toss it all away after tweaking his knee and not even being able to remember which play he actually tweaked it on?

The question is almost unanswerable. However, remember who it is we are talking about here, Jay Cutler. Cutler has never once shown that he has cared what anyone thought about him or what he did. 

I guess there is that one percent chance Cutler may have the best poker face in all of sports and desperately does care what others think, but that is virtually impossible. 

If body language could speak out loud on Sunday evening, Jay would have probably been yelling how he found himself in a game that he felt he could not win and he was stuck behind an offensive line who could not even come close to protecting him. 

To make matters worse, Cutler knew he was stuck in an offensive scheme that really required his offensive line to give him at least one more second of protection for him to find the open receiver.

Finally, the worse thing of all, Cutler knew the quality or better yet, the lack of quality at the backup quarterback's position, held by Todd Collins. While Collins had some limited success with the Redskins a few years ago, over the past few season it looks as if Collins has nothing left to offer the NFL. 

Earlier this season, Collins was forced to take reps during a game against the league's worst team, the Carolina Panthers. Even the lowly Panthers made Collins look like a deer in the headlights.

Collins throws were horrid. The aging veteran showed the Bears' staff he was not Brett Favre that afternoon in Carolina. 

Collins completed a total of six passes and tossed the Panthers four interceptions on the day. Collins was benched in the third quarter and replaced by Caleb Hanie (does that sound familiar?)

Had it not been for a excellent rushing day displayed by Matt Forte, the Bears may not have made it out of Carolina with the win.

The week before the four interception outing in Carolina, Collins made an appearance in relief of an injured Jay Cutler and had an abysmal four completion and one interception day. 

Even though Cutler had a concussion in week four and still had some lingering issues in week five, the injury did give him a front row seat on the bench, to see just how poorly his backup played. 

So Cutler knew Sunday, in the NFC Championship game, when he decided he was hurt, that the game was over.

What are football fans to make of a team's only real chance at an NFL Championship walking and not limping off of the field, while leaving their team's postseason chances in the balance?

Cutler bowing out early Sunday is going to leave a list of questions and these questions will follow Cutler no matter where he goes, even if his MRI shows a torn ACL.

Most football fans remember 2007 and how Philip Rivers hobbled onto the field to take on the Patriots in the AFC Championship game. Rivers battled with his knee the whole game while playing with a torn ACL and though his team came up short in the end, Rivers knew he was their best shot at winning.

Rivers knew he had a solid backup in Billy Volek, but Rivers felt he was the only real chance his Chargers had if they were going to try and beat a Patriots team they had lost to by 24 points earlier in the season. 

While the Chargers wound up losing by nine points, in the end Rivers had kept his team in the game and his efforts garnered him the NFL's number eight "Gutsiest Performance of all-time."

I wonder what Rivers was thinking when Cutler took his dive on Sunday? I also wonder how Ronnie Lott, a man who mangled his finger after getting it smashed between a helmet and his chest during a fight for a wildcard playoff berth and literally, with a piece of bone sticking out of the end of what was his former finger, had trainers tape his fingers together in order to play, felt watching Cutler standing on the sidelines watching his Superbowl hopes disappear.  

Finally, I think about Jack Youngblood, who found himself in the divisional playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys when an awkward block led to small break in his fibula. 

Against his trainers and the team's medical advice Youngblood declared himself fine, able to play and then demanded the leg be taped so he could finish the game. 

Youngblood was awarded his wish. 

X-rays revealed a hairline fracture on Younblood's lower fibula. The following week Youngblood was advised to not play in the Conference Championship game and was told that a blow of any substance, directly on the area fracture could snap the bone. 

Youngblood would have none of it. This was the closest Youngblood had ever been to a Superbowl and if he could muster any type of pass rush, he was going to play. 

Youngblood did play in the Superbowl that year and though his team did not win, his playmaking ability in the playoffs were an important part of the Rams march to the championship game.

For his efforts, Youngblood's broken leg heroics were named the NFL's number one "Gutsiest Performance of all-time."

Looking back at Cutler's performance Sunday I tend to believe most of the players around the NFL will look at the situation Cutler found himself in and apply the new, Mark Schlereth "standard."

Following the game Schlereth tweeted, "As a guy who had 20 knee surgeries you'd have to drag me out on a stretcher to Leave at Championship Game!"

Maurice Jones Drew were among others who spoke up with disdain for what is now being seen as Cutler quitting or complaining too soon. In a tweet, Jones Drew said: "All I'm saying is that he can finish the game on a hurt knee...I played the whole season on one."

Maybe Cutler did not realize the rules that apply to emergency third string quarterbacks and once Collins was pulled and Hanie installed that there was no turning back. Even if Cutler were able to "shake off," his tweaked knee pain he would not have been eligible to re-enter the game. 

To Cutler's credit, he did try to give it the "old college try" before deciding he was physically not going to be able to help his team and then declaring himself hurt. 

The problem with that is, most in Chicago would rather have had Cutler, tweaked knee and all, hanging in there and simply handing the ball off and throwing screen passes instead of letting Todd Collins into a game that was not out of hand yet. 

There was no reason for Todd Collins to be on the Bears' roster. I have to hand it to Hanie for at least getting close; however, it was his two interceptions that ended the season for the Bears.

As far as Cutler and his future in Chicago goes, it is hard to tell, but there are currently a lot more questions than there are answers.

One thing that is known about Cutler is he does not care about answers, either giving them or what people think about his answers if he does decide to give them.