Playing the “Jay Game”

One of the many reasons why football fascinates me is that it’s a game of adjustments. No one game is ever quite the same. Whether its playing in a domed stadium, playing on artificial turf, or trying to take a star receiver or running back out of the game without cutting the rest of the team loose, it’s an endless litany of move and counter move. It’s not a question of who plays the best. Its a question of who plays the best week to week under all conditions. And, like with most of life, accepting and covering for your own weakness are a big part of it.

David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune quoted Charles Woodson after Thursday’s game in what have been the statement of the week describing Bears quarterback Jay Cutler:

“‘It’s the same old Jay,’ Packers cornerback Charles Woodson told ESPN.”

“Now would be a good time for Bears fans to tell [Bears quarterback] quarterback to please, please, please tone it down.”

Yeah, that’s not something we can do. But maybe the Bears better to find someone who can.

Cutler was caught yelling at left tackle J’Marcus Webb Thursday on camera. It was one of many such incidents that night. He didn’t seem very repentent. Via Joe Cowley at the Chicago Sun-Times

“‘I care about this,’ Cutler said of the incident with Webb. ‘This isn’t just a hobby for me. If we’re  not doing things the right way, I’m going to say something. If they want a quarterback that doesn’t care then they better get someone else.’”

Yes. I’m sure Webb and the rest of those bums aren’t constantly berating teammates on national television because they don’t care. That explains everything.


Image from the Chicago Tribune.

 

 

Cutler is being savaged in the media and justifiably so. But having said that, it may be time for the Bears and their fans to accept some reality. We knew from the first that Cutler wasn’t much of a leader. He arrived here after basically quitting on the Broncos. What did we expect?

It’s long past due that, as fans, we adjust our attitudes and accept that Cutler has certain weaknesses that are simply never going away. I mean, really, is the body language in this clip from the Chicago Tribune after the game really a surprise?

Let’s be clear about something. You can’t muster up a heap of outrage and just say that this is all Cutler’s “fault” anymore. It’s now very evident that he’s trying his best and all of this emotional upheaval amongst fans and in the media only gets everyone worked up over things that neither they nor Cutler can control. Leadership doesn’t just appear out of thin air because you’re a quarterback with a thunderbolt for an arm. It’s something that can be developed but, like everything else in life, you still have to be born with the talent, some germ that gets you started and aids you on your way. If you want to play linebacker, you can learn all the moves but you have to have an essential foundation of innate ability or its basically hopeless. Leadership is no different. Hey, I admit that I don’t have the ability. In the same way, its just not a trait that Cutler is ever going to exhibit. His attitude is what it is.

After three years of watching “good Jay, bad Jay”, this is the state that I, at least, have achieved. I find that when I accept Cutler for both the player and the person that he is, I appreciate the wonderful talent he displayed in the Indianapolis game all the more. I think about how to get that kind of performance out of him more often. But I’m done getting worked up every time he yells at someone on the sideline. If the team wants it to stop, they’re going to have to take care of it internally.

And that brings us to the Bears as a team and the things that they need to do about this. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice loves to talk about emphasizing the strengths of his players and compensating for their weaknesses. As is well documented, he’s done that to a great extent with Cutler. But when it comes to this particular weakness, he’s totally failed so far. And after spending so much time around Cutler as offensive line coach, Cutler’s attitude can hardly be a surprise to him. Yet, he’s done nothing about it that I can see. Yes, of course, you want your quarterback to be a leader. But like many other weaknesses, this is something that the Bears simply have to accept and overcome as a team.

As weaknesses go, this one could be a lot worse. It’s not insurmountable. Cutler may not have them but athletes as a group have leadership traits more often than the general populace. It comes with the territory. There’s someone on this team who can step up. Preferably it will be someone who can calm Cutler down at the appropriate times and tell him things he doesn’t want to hear without fear of reprisals from coaches and the front office. Perhaps with a little encouragement from these corners, eventually someone can emerge. And given that this is the case, with his immense talent, how may teams out there would love to have Cutler just as he is?

Bottom line is that its just like anything else in life. If we want to eventually be able to enjoy a good team and a good quarterback in Chicago, it’s simply a matter of stepping back and making some adjustments.

 

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