Jay Cutler's Reputation Leads To Unfair Criticism

Mike SalvatoreCorrespondent IIIJanuary 25, 2011

Jay Cutler had to pick himself off the ground quite a bit this season.
Jay Cutler had to pick himself off the ground quite a bit this season.

Newsflash, Jay Cutler is not the most popular guy in the world.

Ever since he came into the league in 2006, Cutler has had a reputation for being arrogant and brash. Those qualities have not exactly endeared him to the media, the fans and his peers.

Although I have never been a Cutler supporter, as I always thought he was overrated, I find it hard to believe the controversy that has arisen from Cutler not playing in the second half of the NFC Championship Game.

You all have heard the story by now. Cutler suffered a knee injury sometime during the first half of the Chicago Bears loss to their longtime rivals, the Green Bay Packers. The information regarding the severity of the injury was very limited, as all the viewing public knew was that Cutler had some type of knee injury and his return was questionable.

Before you knew it, the floodgates had opened.

Current players such as Maurice Jones-Drew and Kerry Rhodes and former players Derrick Brooks and Deion Sanders began tweeting and openly questioning Cutler’s heart. Each player said they would have to be dragged off the field with the stakes so high.

The image of Cutler on the sideline with a lethargic look on his face only amplified the sentiment that Cutler was gutless. Of course no one knew the prognosis of Cutler’s injury (Grade 2 MCL sprain) or acknowledged the fact that Cutler did come out to start the second half.

Seems as though Cutler’s reputation has gotten the better of him in this case. The perfect parallel to Cutler’s situation occurred three years ago with Phillip Rivers in the AFC Championship Game. Like Cutler, Rivers had (still does) a reputation for being arrogant, but he earned universal praise from his peers during his gutsy performance in the 2008 AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots while playing with a torn ACL.

Due to his performance, the overall perception of Rivers changed significantly. He was no longer arrogant, he was confident. He was no longer brash, he had fire.

What amazes me about the whole situation is how quickly players around the league were so willing to question Cutler’s toughness. Cutler took an absolute beating behind a porous offensive line this season. He was the most sacked quarterback in the league this season, and even suffered a concussion as a result of the lack of protection. Yet he never opened his mouth and complained, he went about his business and took his (many) bumps.

Something else to consider is the advancement in modern medicine and technology. If this were twenty years ago, I have no doubt that Cutler would have stayed on the field and finished the game. In today’s NFL, coaches and trainers have much more information available to them concerning a player’s health.

Concussions have become a big topic of discussion the last few seasons, and the league is doing its best to monitor the health of all of its players. So many players from the NFL’s past suffer lingering injuries or have conditions due to the fact that they did play through so many injuries.

Football is a violent sport, there is no debating that. The most important thing to consider is a player’s long term health. The Bears have invested quite a bit in Jay Cutler, and the last thing they needed him to do was play on a gimpy leg and further injure himself.

For a league that is so concerned about the well being of its own, I found it very surprising that so many players were questioning Cutler’s toughness, especially with such limit knowledge of his injury.

If this were almost any other player in the league, I have a feeling this whole situation would be a non-story. Unfortunately, for Jay Cutler, due to his reputation and perception around the league this has been blown way out of proportion.

I never thought I would say this, but I feel bad for Jay Cutler.