Yesterday was a chance for Jay Cutler to solidify himself as one of the game's top quarterbacks and yet, the NFC Championship may have killed his credibility in NFL circles.
Cutler left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury and a lot of people questioned the quarterback's toughness, so we're here to break down what happened during the game and give you the reaction from current and former players, along with Cutler's teammates, coaches and a reporter who was there.
What do you think about Jay Cutler? Should he have stayed in the game?
The injury first happened at the end of the first half when Cutler took a hit on the outside of his left knee.
The quarterback said that he knew something was wrong with the knee once he felt the contact. Cutler was looked at by the team's doctors at halftime and the decision was made for Cutler to try and give it a go to start the half.
That's when things went downhill for Cutler.
Cutler only attempted one pass in the first half and with the way it felt, the decision was made to pull him.
The choice was made by the medical staff, not by Cutler himself and at that point, Todd Collins came into the contest, but eventually gave way to Caleb Hanie, who almost brought the Bears back and had Chicago driving at the end of the game.
Hanie's performance only increased the criticism lobbed Cutler's way.
As the entire saga unfolded, numerous NFL players took to Twitter to voice their opinion on what appeared to be Jay Cutler removing himself from the game.
"Cmon cutler u have to come back," Rhodes tweeted. "This is the NFC championship if u didn't know!"
It's a sentiment that a lot of fans, especially those in the stadium were feeling as Cutler was wandering the sidelines and trying to use an exercise bike to try and get his knee to the point where he could get back under center.
Maurice Jones-Drew, one of the tougher players in the league, also went to his Twitter feed to voice his doubts about the seriousness of Jay Cutler's injury, using his own experiences this season as proof.
"All I'm saying is that he can finish the game on a hurt knee ... I played the whole season on one," Jones-Drew tweeted.
Regardless of what happens from here on out, I think that a lot of players around the NFL are really going to question Jay Cutler's toughness. It may not be the guys in his locker room, but from the outside looking in, it wasn't a shining moment for Cutler.
Maurice Jones-Drew and Kerry Rhodes weren't the only ones who took to Twitter to criticize Jay Cutler for leaving the game yesterday. Here's a sampling of what went down.
“As a guy who had 20 knee surgeries you’d have to drag me out on a stretcher to Leave a championship game," ESPN personality Mark Schlereth tweeted.
“If I’m on chicago team jay cutler has to wait till me and the team shower get dressed and leave before he comes in the locker room," Arizona player Darnell Dockett tweeted.
“Jay Cutler better go put some Tussin on that knee and get back out there," Jaguars linebacker Kirk Morrison tweeted.
“Im telling u in the playoffs u must drag me off the field," Deion Sanders tweeted. "All the medicine in pro lockerooms this dude comes out! I apologize bear fans! . . . Folks i never question a players injury but i do question a players heart."
It's getting worse and worse to be Jay Cutler right about now.
Jay Cutler himself refused to comment on the criticism lobbied at him by fellow players, but Sports Illustrated's Jim Trotter wrote about how Cutler was visibly hurt at the allegations and fought back tears at his locker.
Cutler said he couldn't plant and throw and said that the joint lacked stability and when that was obvious, the medical team pulled him from the game, not the quarterback himself, as some people thought might have been the case.
It's tough to criticize someone who might be seriously injured, as the rumor is that the quarterback might have torn his MCL.
After the game, Lovie Smith came to his quarterback's defense when asked about the injury that kept Cutler out of the game.
"It's no player decision," Smith said to the media. "For us, Jay hurt his knee. He couldn't go...The trainers, doctors and all—they're the ones who really made that decision. "
Smith wasn't the only member of the Chicago organization to come to Cutler's defense as reporters peppered the Bears with questions about their quarterback, his injury and reaction to his perceived lack of toughness.
Brian Urlacher was one of Jay Cutler's most passionate defenders as he went on a rant about people who were questioning his quarterback's toughness.
"I don't give a [expletive] about players around the league who are watching the game from home," Urlacher said to the media."It's easy to talk [expletive] about someone while you're sitting on your couch watching the game. That's all I'm saying. I don't understand it. I don't get it. Let them sprain their MCL—or do whatever he did to his knee—and let them get back in the game. Let's see them do that, see how well they run the ball, or see how well they do at whatever position they play. I don't agree with it. It's easy to write that stuff on the Internet."
The linebacker who has dealt with injuries of his own didn't stop there.
"Jay was hurt," Urlacher said to the media. "We don't question his toughness. He's tough as hell. He's one of the toughest guys on our football team. He doesn't b***h, he doesn't complain when he gets hit. He goes out there and plays his ass off every Sunday. He practices every single day. We don't question his toughness."
If Brian Urlacher gives you that seal of approval, that's pretty much all you need to know.
Brian Urlacher wasn't the only member of the Chicago Bears to come to Jay Cutler's defense after the game as offensive lineman Olin Kruetz fired back at those players and reporters who were taking shots at Cutler's toughness.
"If you don't have an MCL injury or whatever, then you don't understand," Kruetz said to the media. "It's easy to question people from your couch, but it's...stupid."
I think we'll find out in the next couple of days how serious this injury is, and if it's bad, a lot of people are going to owe Jay Cutler an apology.
Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated wrote a strong defense in his column today and he breaks it down the way it should be looked at.
Yes, football is seen as a tough guy's sport and that if Cutler's MRI comes back negative, he's going to get destroyed from every corner of the NFL world because he didn't play when nothing was technically wrong with him.
However, Trotter writes that Cutler's reaction to the criticism of him and his toughness hurt more than what his knee went through on Sunday. It's a very solid defense of a guy that was attacked before we knew the whole story.
Reports are coming out that Jay Cutler has suffered a torn MCL, and if they're true, a lot of the people I talked about owe Cutler an apology.
A torn MCL is not something that is easy to play through and if your knee has no stability, as a quarterback, with guys falling down all around you, going back out there is just not the wise thing to do. The people that are questioning his toughness should be embarrassed now that the truth is starting to come out.
Cutler got a bad rap yesterday afternoon for no good reason.