Much has been made of Jay Cutler's sideline demeanor after suffering what we now know is a sprained Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) and watching an entire year of work be rendered irrelevant.
Analysts on both ESPN and the NFL network questioned Cutler's toughness before knowing anything about the seriousness of the injury Cutler sustained, or what he'd been told by the Bears medical and coaching stuff.
The way Cutler carried himself, and the looks on his face, inspired passionate hyperbole from several analysts. Within 24 hours of the game's conclusion, many of the television analysts had gone on to question Cutler's heart, courage, passion for and commitment to the game, all based on what they could see on TV.
In the past three years Cutler had the coach who drafted and believed in him fired, his new coach promptly shipped them out of town, his first year in Chicago did not go well, and he got off to a rocky start this year.
Preseason predictions had the Bears missing the playoffs, with double-digit losses with Cutler being the primary reason why.
Despite all that's been said and all he's been through, Cutler had a solid season. The Bears won the North, were the second seed in the entire NFC and got all the way to the conference championship game.
Cutler had an opportunity to silence his critics, gain a measure of redemption, and live out his childhood dream of playing in the Super Bowl, and then he got injured.
What would be the look on your face if all that happened to you?
ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter actually said that the best thing for Jay Cutler is to have surgery, implying that going under the knife was the only way to convince Chicago fans that he has the right to be a Bear after his behavior on the sidelines following his season-ending injury. I can think of no circumstance under which this comment can be considered anything less than reprehensible.
ESPN interviewed some of Cutler's teammates, none of whom seem to share the views of the commentators and analysts. The Chicago Bears are behind Jay Cutler and this talk about his toughness is clearly not the perception of his teammates.
Deion Sanders said the problem with his demeanor was perception. Whose perception of what? Cutler's coaches and teammates certainly do not perceive any lack of toughness or heart. To suggest that there will be any long-term backlash from fans because of the look on a player's face players is disingenuous at best.
I personally don't require Sanders to tell me what my perceptions are.
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Sanders' partner on the NFL network, ex-Cowboy wide receiver turned analyst Michael Irvin, said that he fought the coaching and medical staff to get back on the field when he was injured. Is Irvin suggesting that Cutler should have played through a sprained ligament in his knee? How can anyone make a comment like that before knowing the seriousness of the injury?
There are varying degrees of injury when it comes to ligament sprains. The way to determine the extent of the injury, meaning whether or not it's torn, is to do a MRI. Without a MRI it is simply impossible for the medical staff on the sideline to know for sure.
The analysts failed to report that Cutler was seen on the stationary bike, on the sidelines in an attempt to loosen up his knee so he could go back into the game.
During a press conference Monday after the game Lovie Smith made clear that Cutler did attempt to get back onto the field but at some point the decision wasn't Cutler's. The coaching staff with the medical staff made a decision that would safeguard the player for the long term. And that's as it should be.
Smith went on to say that the way this happened is the opposite of the way it's being reported.
One would think that if Jay Cutler's was going to exhibit a lack toughness that this little character flaw would have shown itself during one the 56 sacks he took during the regular season. People who aren't tough don't cut back onto the field of play when they could run out of bounds and take a chance of getting blasted by Detroit's mammoth defensive lineman, Ndamukong Sue.
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The fact that he's still alive after the way the Bears offensive line was playing early on in the year speaks volumes about his toughness. To question his toughness without knowing the full extent of his injuries is nothing short of irresponsible and anyone who did owes Jay Cutler and apology.
It's easy to sit at the sports desk for the NFL network and talk tough about gambling with someone else's career.
What is most egregious about these comments is that analysts for both ESPN and the NFL network implied that an announcer, commentator or analyst can know what's going on in Jay Cutler's heart and in his gut by the look on his face.
Do you have to take a trip to Oz to get that kind of power, or was it bestowed upon them simply by virtue of their positions as television personalities.
One could definitely say that Cutler has some things to learn about leading a team. To suggest that the young man doesn’t quite understand that the role of team leader does not diminish in injury or defeat might be a reasonable leap for someone to make
I can see how an analyst might extrapolate Cutler's demeanor into a lack of leadership skills.
It's one thing to say that 27-year-old Jay Cutler has something to learn about leading a team. It's quite another thing to suggest that Cutler has no passion for the game just because his particular brand of passion doesn't look the way a television analyst thinks it should.
On the Monday after the NFC championship game, ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer told America that he wanted to see more passion from Jay Cutler. Dilfer went on to say that passion is what Chicago fans want to see from Cutler as well.
Do Bears fans require Dilfer's assistance to interpret what passion looks like from their quarterback? Do individual football fans required television analysts to tell them how they feel?
I think not.