That's the question that gasbag Rick Reilly asked last week, and damned if it doesn't appear to have been one of the more successful hack jobs in a long line of them aimed at bringing down Jay Cutler. What I've seen in the last 24 hours has absolutely sickened me. That's the only way I can express it. I'm actually sickened by what I have seen with regard to this whole situation.
From the NFL players taking shots at Cutler on twitter (What's that, Maurice Jones Drew? Cutler should have played with a knee injury in a big game? Where the f&%k were you when the Jaguars had a playoff spot in the line in Week 16 and 17? How the f%&k do you know that Cutler's knee didn't start out right where yours ended up when you had to take a seat?), to the usual talking heads spouting off like always (Trent Dilfer of course, stated that when he had an MCL injury he couldn't stand. That was meant to point out that Jay must be faking, since he tried playing, but it really makes Jay Cutler look all that much tougher than Trent F*&king Dilfer, since we know now the injury was real), to the meatheads raging and acting like general disgraces to the human race. I'm addressing that last one to the troglodytes that posted videos and pictures of themselves as they burned Jay Cutler's jersey. Burning jerseys? Really? What's the next step? Book burning? Lynch mobs? Burning in effigy? Are we protesting Jay's Treaty? Have we really regressed this much as a species and as a civilization? I hope those people don't have children.
All of this revolves around the question that Rick Reilly asked, sadly. Who is Jay Cutler? How many people actually know him? Not many, obviously. I'd argue that his teammates know him, and they've all rallied around him and have vociferously defended him. The sad part is the people like Reilly who claim they want to know him, or that they want to give him a chance to defend himself. Fuck that. They want him to trip into the hole they dug for him and then castigate him for it. This is what happened last night. They've set up everything in a nice little row until an incident occurred that could be easily miscast by a public that already had the gavel floating, awaiting anything that would allow them to slam it down and yell "GUILTY!" Like a wrongfully executed man on death row, the evidence that has come after the fact won't fix the damage that's been done.
So Jay Cutler really was hurt. Sure, it may have been an MCL tear, one that normally takes 3-4 weeks to heal, but Player X once played with (insert completely unrelated injury), why can't Jay?
So Jay Cutler didn't pull himself, it was the coaches. Why didn't he launch into some sideline theater like the warrior Jim McMahon did when he fought his way back into a game in 1985 (McMahon, who made just 61 of 104 possible starts during his Bears career and missed parts or all of the 1984, 1986, 1987, and 1988 playoffs, is a great example I've heard tossed around)?
So Jay Cutler actually did try to lobby with the coaches, take a shot, and forced his way back into the game? Well why didn't he do more on the sidelines?
So his teammates and coaches all stand by him and think he did everything he could? Too bad, he quit on them according to the people at home.
And so on it goes. Nothing will change it, although I have been heartened by the people I have seen stepping in to defend him today. The fact of the matter is nothing will stop the Rick Reillys of the world. Cutler has been condemned in the court of public opinion. Hopefully he'll continue to shrug that off as he has his entire career.
So who do I think Jay Cutler is? I think he's a guy that's done as well as quarterback of the Chicago Bears as he can. If you think that's ridiculous, look at the guy who came before him. I mean that, too. You want to compare Jay Cutler to Kyle Orton? How about you compare them when they had the same level of talent around them? Compare Cutler's numbers in Denver to Kyle Orton's numbers in Denver. Jay has the same passer rating, a higher completion %, a higher touchdown %, a higher YPA. You want to look at Jay Cutler as a Bear vs. Kyle Orton as a Bear:
Orton: 55.3% Completion, 30 touchdowns, 27 INTS, 5.8 YPA, 161.2 YPG, 71.1 Rating
Cutler: 60.5% Completion, 50 touchdowns, 42 INTS, 7.0 YPA, 223.9 YPG, 80.9 Rating.
And that's including a terrible year by Cutler last year, one completely out of line with the numbers he's posted in 4 of his 5 years as a pro. Cutler's light years better.
Hell, in his last 19 games including the playoffs the guy is 13-6 with 33 touchdown passes. I'll take that. He took a team that nearly every prognosticator had buried at the bottom of the division all the way to the NFL's final four. Nothing is good enough, though. I guess Chicago is just too used to elite quarterback play to accept what Jay has done for them.
When I look at Jay Cutler I see a guy who lined up behind a left tackle that was a back up for the f*&king Panthers and had already failed at left guard and right tackle, a left guard that was a failed draft pick with a bad back who already busted out at his first position of left tackle and had to slide over midseason to play a position he hadn't played since his freshman year of college, a center that's been in the NFL for 13 years and has been in rapid decline for the last few years, a guard in Roberto Garza who is also old and required a midseason knee surgery just to stay in the lineup, and finally a 7th round draft pick rookie at left tackle who spent his college years at a Division II school because he wasn't smart enough to meet the rigorous academic standards at Texas.
At wide receiver Jay Cutler has thrown to a guy who is a converted DB and kick returner, a 5th round draft pick from Abilene Christian, a 3rd round pick from Vanderbilt who couldn't even get on the field his rookie year thanks to an inability to learn the playbook (I'm sure he had no trouble digesting the routes in Martz's scheme this year), and a cult hero in Devin Aromashodu who hasn't yet found a practice squad he couldn't make.
At tight end he's got a first round draft pick that can't even get on the field half of the time thanks to his oft-maligned blocking skills and his frequent drops.
Matt Forte had a great year this year but was injured last year and nearly lost his job to Chester Taylor, a guy who gave Cutler a lot of help by amassing the lowest YPC average of any runningback with 100 carries since the NFL merger in 1970.
Cutler's had two incredibly stubborn and erratic offensive coordinators in two years in Ron Turner and Mike Martz, and he's had to carry the load for both thanks to a run game that either didn't work (last year) or was largely ignored (the first half of this year).
So what's Jay Cutler done in that time? He's carried his team to an NFC Championship game, averaged 3500 yards and 25 touchdown passes (both firsts for a Bears QB over a two year period), posted the highest career passer rating in Bears history (despite posting his Lowest career passer rating last year), highest career completion %, and is top five in every other category you want to look at.
What's his reward? He gets his toughness and his leadership questioned in the middle of all the hell he's been through. The man has taken 87 sacks in two years, by far the most of any QB in that time period. Twice I've seen him bleeding from the chin in games following bone-jarring hits. He went back into both games. He took an NFL record for sacks in a half against the Giants and suffered a concussion that guys like Chris Collinsworth actually tried to blame him for. Never has he succumbed to the temptation to throw his linemen under the bus like a certain field general in Indianapolis and his "protection issues." Hell, he plays every game with type 1 diabetes, gets his blood sugar checked every time he goes to the sideline, and doesn't receive the lionization that the same condition rightfully earned Chicago legend Ron Santo. Brian Urlacher called him the toughest player on the Bears, and that guy doesn't throw a title like that around lightly.
I take that all into account, plus the news of the MRI results and the severity of the injury, and I'm even more sickened by what took place yesterday. For everyone out there still quoting Rick Reilly, I have an answer to the question of who Jay Cutler is: He's a damn good quarterback, and you're an idiot. Book it.