Jay Cutler Must Grow, Get on the Same Page with Mike Martz

Fred Mitchell at the Chicago Tribune describes an incident which has been building locally into a real story over the course of the week:

Jay Cutler acknowledged Wednesday that he shouted an obscenity that was directed toward Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz during last Sunday night’s victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

“The NBC field microphone and camera picked up the voice of Cutler telling quarterbacks coach Shane Day to relay a message to Martz in a Soldier Field booth: ‘Tell him I said (blank) him.'”

Two different columns were written today which gave different perspectives on the episode, one by the Chicago Sun-Times Mark Potash, the other by Dan Pompei at the Tribune.

Let’s start with Potash:

“Jay Cutler usually can’t hide his disdain for uncomfortable or annoying subjects during his weekly news conferences. With a dismissive attitude, curt responses and body language that says he rather would be anywhere but in the media room at Halas Hall, he has a habit of making things worse than when he started.”

“But Cutler at least made a plausible case that it’s much ado about nothing. And that, in itself, is significant progress for Cutler, who is on a roll with back-to-back games of 99.6 and 115.9 passer ratings.”

“‘I’m not going to make a big deal of this; it’s not a big deal. We’re all on the same team in this building. We’re [trying] to win football games.'”

“‘I’m a competitor,’ Cutler said. ‘So is he. So is everyone on this offense. Whether we’re up three touchdowns or three points, a second- and third-down call is as important as any one in the game.

‘So … it is what it is. We’re good. We’re moving on. Excited about his week’s game plan and excited to go play in London.'”

Potash went on to say that the incident was a symptom of the greater problems surrounding the Bears offense.

Pompei, on the other hand, saw this as a personal failing on the part of Cutler.

“The Bears quarterback claims the media is making something out of nothing. Not sure what planet he comes from, but in my world I don’t often hear a subordinate talk to his superior that way.

“How long would you be in your starting lineup if you gave your boss that message?”

“The message Cutler really sends — to his coaches, his teammates, his opponent and the public — is that he lacks respect and self control. Cutler doesn’t have to agree with the call, or how it was made, but he does have to show courtesy to the people and the process.

That’s not football, that’s life.”

“For him to be an effective leader, he will need to mature more. Or, if you prefer to attribute his behavior to his ‘fiery’ nature, he will need an occasional bucket of water thrown over him.”

Whatever you say about Cutler he evokes strong reactions. Even in people not named “Kristin”.

At least both of these columnists agree on one thing – Cutler deserves credit for addressing the issue and telling the truth. We constantly say we want honesty in our athletes. Then we bang them as hard as we can as soon as they do it.

You can argue that, nevertheless, Pompei’s column has some of that in it. The answer to Pompei’s question is that if I ever did what Cutler did with my boss, I might as well start packing up my desk in preparation for a new career in waste management. Having played competitive sports, part of me wants to say that Cutler’s situation is different. The other part of me wonders if he would ever verbally sodomize head coach Lovie Smith in the same situation.  It seems to me that Cutler does have a specific problem with Martz.

At least as important in the big picture is the issue of Cutlers growth.  I’ve never bought into Cutler as a good leader and I usually lean in Pompei’s direction when the subject comes up. But to my eye Cutler is doing better this year in an effort to fill the void left by the departure of former center Olin Kreutz. He is certainly at least trying with some success (via Potash):

“‘We are a team, and whenever [Cutler] gets fired up, we get fired up,’ center Roberto Garza said. ‘We started playing well, and all that excitement comes from our quarterback. He leads our team. Whatever he does, we do.’”

Cutler’s case that this incident and the events surrounding it this week are a non-issue may have been “plausible” but it doesn’t fly.  Good or bad, it would seem that he is a leader for this team now.  And that means he has to think carefully where he leads them to.  There are clearly some things here that need to be dealt with.

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