Despite my lack of affection for Jay Cutler, one cannot deny the kid has talent. No matter what I may say about the gray matter between his ears, the diva who forced his way out of Denver has a cannon hanging from his shoulder.
Not only that, he's got one hell of a competitive drive and comes equipped with a full arsenal of athleticism to complement his arm.
So it makes sense to pump the brakes on the hyperbole in the wake of his debut for the Chicago Bears. I'm sure much gloom and doom will be written after his disastrous opening act, and the bulk will be warranted.
Cutler's new squad lost the game 21-15, and more ominously, it seems they lost Brian Urlacher for the year.
I think that qualifies as a bad start.
It's one thing to lose a game you probably should've won.
It's another to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by gift-wrapping a 50-yard joy-for-the-fantasy-senses from Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings with 71 seconds left.
It's a whole different kind of wrong to suffer both and lose your defensive leader until 2010.
The triple dose of misfortune nestles right up there with nuclear devastation for your football team. Throw in a couple other key injuries of varying degrees, and you've got yourself a real situation brewing in Chi-Town.
And how about that ending by Kyle Orton's Denver Broncos for instant karma?
Several caveats need to be made when picking over Jay Cutler's remains. Not enough to totally spit-shine his day, mind you.
When you're a quarterback in the NFL and you complete only 17-of-36 passes for 277 yards and a 4:1 interception-to-touchdown ratio...well...you'd die of dehydration before you removed all the grime. That's a stinker and there's no changing it.
Nevertheless, this was Cutler's first real spin with his new team. It was on the road in Green Bay, which is an extremely hostile challenge even when the tundra is soft. And it was against a defense that most observers expect to be pretty ferocious and looked damn good.
Additionally, one of the four picks was absolutely NOT Baby Jay's fault.
The diving interception made by defensive end Johnny Jolly as Da Bears were heading into the end zone was nothing short of miraculous. That was an insanely soft and agile move for any athlete, but Senor Jolly is 6'3" and at least 350 pounds—I don't care what his player profile says.
To see the big fella read the screen and deftly tip the pigskin to himself while thundering to the ground was unreal. You really can't put that on the quarterback.
So, as bad as the scene looked yesterday, I have no doubt that tomorrow holds a sunnier day for the young signal caller and his team.
But just HOW sunny has always been a question in my mind.
While his natural talent is beyond question, doubts about Cutler's mental capacity for the game's most scrutinized position persist. In my mind, Sunday's debut only made the sirens louder and flags a more urgent shade of red.
For instance, I was being charitable above when describing his night. I omitted several glaring blunders by Chicago's new QB.
At one point in the first quarter, Cutler threw three consecutive balls that should've been picked off. Two of the three hit both of the respective defender's hands before dropping harmlessly to the turf. The third did not and became his first completion to the wrong team.
All in the triumvirate were egregiously bad throws and/or decisions.
In the fourth quarter, the dude threw yet another duck that should've been yanked out of the air by the opposing team.
Jolly's splendor certainly absolves Cutler of one interception, but the flip to that coin is the collection of passes chucked to Packers that were dropped.
Oof, and the warning signs keep comin'.
There were three episodes where the aforementioned competitive fire threatened to burn Cutler's body to the ground:
1. Cameras caught him engaging in an extracurricular shoving match with rookie Clay Matthews. Admittedly, Matthews was the much larger punk here because coming from a football family and playing at USC doesn't entitle a newbie in his first game to taunt a comparably seasoned veteran. But Jay's gotta understand he's the more valuable player there, and by a long shot.
If things had escalated, think Green Bay would've sacrificed Matthews for Chicago's biggest offseason acquisition?
I understand he was frustrated. I understand the other guy was out of line.
Jay Cutler's gotta be cooler than that.
2. On his third INT of the night, the new face of the franchise almost killed himself trying to make a quixotic tackle as Tramon Williams was threatening to make it a pick-six.
Again, I understand Cutler was frustrated, and I understand he was trying to help the team. But good Lord, he just put his head down and charged into at least one Packer defender and barely missed getting vanished by some mountain of a defensive lineman.
I say again, Jay Cutler—you are TOO VALUABLE to give into that kind of disregard for your well-being.
It's fine when you're John Elway trying to win a Super Bowl at the end of your career. It's fine (though unwise) to do it if you're Sage Rosenfels.
But it's really stupid if you're supposed to be the centerpiece of the franchise for years to come.
3. Several minutes after narrowly cheating death by pancake, Cutler was up to the same trick. This time, he threw caution (and his corpus) to the wind trying to secure a first down on 3rd-and-13. It was a little more excusable since the lunge wasn't in such vain as the attempted tackle, but still not a glowing example of discretion.
Last time, I promise—all three examples are proof positive of Baby Jay's passion, enthusiasm, and desire to win.
Hang those assets on a 26-year-old frame already oozing with talent, and the result should be a force with which to reckon. There were even glimpses of said force early in the second half—for several series, it looked as if the offseason prima donna might explode from the ashes and lead the Chicago Bears to victory.
Moments like those argue against dismissing the youngster as yet another million-dollar talent with a 10-cent brain. Persuasively.
Nobody should doubt that Cutler has many brilliant performances down the road.
But that road is littered with enough caution signs that you have to wonder.
Will they be brilliant enough?