I keep promising myself to let the issues surrounding Jay Cutler‘s injury during the NFC Championship game die. But little interesting points of discussion keep coming out of it.
Fran Tarkenton made some interesting comments on the “Mully and Hanley Show” on WSCR in Chicago (via the Chicago Tribune).
“It’s going to be very difficult. I don’t question Jay Cutler’s toughness. Anybody who plays in the National Football League is tough. I don’t question his courage. I question his judgment.”
“He made a bad decision by taking himself out of the game. I think he’ll have to live with this decision for a long, long time, and I think it will be a very hard decision to overcome, inside the locker room, outside the locker room, in the fan base, wherever he might go. I think it’s a very unfortunate thing.”
“We’re not football players like the rest of the guys. The rest of the guys are hitting people and knocking people down; we’re running away from them. We’ve got to be the emotional leader, the inspirational leader and the physical leader out there. That’s what quarterbacks have always been … in Chicago, from Sid Luckman, (Jim) McMahon, Bobby Douglass and on — the (Roger) Staubachs and all of them — that’s just what you do.
I’m not so sure I agree with the leadership part of this. Cutler is probably better off being who he is rather than forcing himself into this role. But that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be setting an example.
As tough as Cutler is and as many hits as he took during the year, I have to wonder if Tarkenton doesn’t have a point. I’ve said before that Cutler’s history suggests that he might not be who handles the tough times well mentally. He was playing poorly you have to wonder if he just said to himself, “The knee is hurt. That’s it.” rather than deciding to fight through both the bad knee and the poor play simultaneously.
Tarkenon says that this is likely a problem “inside the locker room, outside the locker room, in the fan base”. As supportive as they’ve been publicly of Cutler is it possible that Brian Urlacher or Lance Briggs could watch Cutler riding that exercise bike and not wonder if they wouldn’t have been out there playing on that knee? How about Tommie Harris, whose knee hasn’t been right since 2006? As part of that fan base, I’m starting to wonder.