Jay Cutler just can’t seem to win
BY RICK MORRISSEY email@example.com | @MorrisseyCST September 25, 2013 9:47PM
Updated: October 3, 2013 7:45PM
By now, a properly chastened Jay Cutler figures to be two or three chapters into Eat, Pray, Love.
But that’s only if he hasn’t been too busy planning the next guys-night-out at a spa and wellness center. Is there a Groupon for that?
After hearing the criticism of the way Cutler risked injury by lowering his shoulder and plowing over a Pittsburgh defender who meant him harm, I’m sure he feels awful that he didn’t choose to slide like a polite quarterback should.
“I’m sorry I’m not sorry,’’ he said on his radio show.
Good. You shouldn’t be.
I know this is not the popular view. It certainly isn’t the sensible view. Who wants Cutler hurt, besides the other team and maybe a few former teammates and coordinators?
The Bears quarterback taking on a free safety is insanity illustrated, right?
Maybe, but all I know is that there are times when a team is energized by a quarterback’s lack of concern for his own safety. It’s as if he’s a real, live football player just like they are. Sunday night in Pittsburgh was one of those times.
Don’t misunderstand. Cutler had nothing to prove in the toughness department. Aside from the misguided attacks on him when he sat out most of the second half of the NFC Championship Game in 2011 with a knee injury, few people have questioned his courage. He’s still picking grass seed out of his scalp from all the times he has been sacked as a Bear. On the tough-guy spectrum, he is much more linebacker than kicker.
His fourth-quarter demolition of Steelers safety Robert Golden might be one of the moments we look back on as pivotal for the 2013 Bears. They had watched a 24-3 lead shrink to a 27-23 advantage. Offensively, they had been abysmal on third downs. Cutler took all of this into consideration as he ran on third-and-10 from the Bears’ 26-yard line with a little more than nine minutes left.
He would say later that, when he came within sliding distance of Golden, he wasn’t sure he had the first down. He saw a game getting away from his team. That’s when he lowered his right shoulder — yes, the one attached to his throwing arm — and hit the Steeler. Think of a truck hitting a sapling.
The only way it could have been more humiliating for Golden is if Cutler had yanked the epaulets off the safety’s shoulders.
Cutler gained 13 yards on the play. A few plays later, on third-and-12, he threw a perfect pass to Brandon Marshall for a 41-yard gain. He eventually would find Earl Bennett in the corner of the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown. Crisis averted.
If Cutler had slid and failed to get that first down, we might be talking about the 2-1 Bears instead of the 3-0 Bears. And as surely as the sun comes up in the east, some people would be wondering why he didn’t lower his shoulder to get the extra inches that would have kept the drive alive.
I’ll admit that my immediate reaction when a quarterback initiates contact is, “You might want to slide there.’’ And I might even have thought that had I been watching the play as it unfolded instead of writing and tweeting. But after pondering the circumstances and seeing the way he blew up Golden, I had no qualms. He lifted his team on one shoulder.
Some of Cutler’s teammates scolded him in the huddle for his apparent recklessness, but I’ll guarantee you anger wasn’t their first reaction when they saw the hit. That was a football play, and they knew it.
Cutler is not indestructible, but he seems to be tougher than most quarterbacks. He has gotten up after some vicious hits from opponents, with Bears offensive linemen too often acting as ushers.
He is not injury-prone. The offense the Bears run doesn’t expose him to undue chance of harm. He is not Michael Vick and a blown-out knee waiting to happen in Chip Kelly’s offense.
He has taken a lot of heat in his four-plus years here for being immature and pouty. But in terms of being game, of being willing to do whatever it takes to win, there are no questions.
I get it. You don’t want Josh McCown running the offense while Cutler has torso-replacement surgery.
Don’t do that again, Chicago pleads. OK, Jay?
“I can’t promise that,’’ Cutler said.
Good. You shouldn’t.