When the Chicago Bears traded Kyle Orton and two first-round picks to Denver for quarterback Jay Cutler in 2009, the city was ebullient. At long last the city had found a franchise quarterback to lead the team, and the city, back to the Super Bowl.
They had replaced a serviceable quarterback in Orton, immobile and weak-armed, with a star. Young, fleet-footed, with a canon for an arm, Jay Cutler represented possibly the most talented quarterback the franchise has ever had, and a management that was finally ready to give the team what it needed to win.
Then reality set in. With offensive line woes and a team without a star wide receiver, Cutler proved that we should add reckless to his list of adjectives, forcing throws into coverage with frequency and without a conscience. The "savior" of the franchise would have to be groomed.
Undaunted, the management again moved to invest. Help enters in the forms of former head coach Mike Tice to address the offense line needs, and former head coach Mike Martz to bring life to a stagnant offense. The Bears responded by making it to the NFC Championship Game.
Yet, in a season of success, criticism was a constant. Not because of subpar line play—they did well. Not because of an inconsistent running game—the re-emergence of the offense line helped Matt Forte return to form. Not because of receiver issues or special teams. Criticism was constant because of the demeanor of the star quarterback: Jay Cutler.
The problem? Communication.
A study from UCLA concluded that up to 93 percent of communication effectiveness is determined by non-verbal cues. That seems a bit much, but even if 50-60 percent of how humans communicate comes from other than what we say, it is something that we can't ignore.
Energy levels, facial expression, stance, posture and other cues speak volumes about what you feel, think and believe. Non-verbal communication is not a misnomer, it's serious business, especially in a business producing millions of dollars each week based on promoting a brand.
There has been much said about Cutler's not finishing the NFC Championship Game this past Sunday, but most of his criticism and defense has been based on the wrong thing.
It's not that Cutler didn't finish the game, an injury is an injury and no one has the right to judge how another feels. It is what he did after he was medically ruled out of the game that matters.
His behavior was that of a person who had suffered a concussion, not a knee injury. He stood staring vacantly. He sat in a daze. He showed no visible signs of having an injured knee. Showed no emotion or care for his teammates battling just a few feet in front of him. Non-verbally, he didn't lead or even acknowledge he was on a team one game away from the Super Bowl.
Not only did Cutler say much by what he didn't say, but also so did the Bears. The medical staff didn't immobilize his knee or show any visible concern for an injury that would keep their franchise quarterback out of game that was winnable. If he was that injured, where was the care? Cutler may have been ruled out by the team verbally, but their nonverbal communication said that their quarterback was able to play, if he wanted to.
Where was the fight to get back into the game? Where was the passion?
Those who defend Cutler speak about his heart in the regular season, but the playoffs are another thing altogether. A game away from the Super Bowl and where is the cheering the team on? Where is Cutler helping to encourage the team? Does a knee stop you from wearing headphones and helping the relief quarterbacks?
Leadership is a measurable thing, and both Cutler and the Bears staff failed to show it on Sunday. Cutler was having a terrible game and a third-string quarterback came in and infused life. Similar in abilities—mobile and a strong arm—Caleb Hanie showed the world that Martz's offense works. The Green Bay defense didn't have to adjust much to him as he boasts a similar skill set, not to add that he is a player who hasn't taken a snap with the starters all year.
No, Jay Cutler said one thing with his mouth, but another with everything else. He's proven that he is a star in the regular season, but hasn't shown the same in the playoffs.
The truth is that Jay Cutler looked lackluster during the most important game of his career to date. With all the millions being spent on branding the NFL, somebody should give some of that cash to Mr. Wizard, because the Bears' "savior" quarterback needs to learn how to show some of the heart that his defenders declare he has.