Cutler Needs to Care if He Wants to Lead

Edward L. Flom once said “One of the hardest tasks of leadership is understanding that you are not what you are, but what you’re perceived to be by others.”

I find the differing views of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in the media interesting in this regard.  ESPN writer Rick Reilly threw the first salvo:

“If he’s not The Most Hated Man in the NFL, he’s in the running. His expression is usually that of a man wearing sandpaper underwear. He looks everywhere but into your eyes. It’s a tie as to which he enjoys more — smirking or shrugging.

“It’s hard to say what interests Cutler, but it’s definitely not you.”

I documented the response of David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune.

Bob Legere at the the Daily Harald defends Cutler:

“Does Cutler come off as arrogant and disinterested during press conferences? Absolutely. Does he have any use for the media? Doubtful. Does he fail to look people in the eyes when he’s talking? Sometimes, maybe a lot of the time, but he’s getting better.

“Does he limit his accessibility to once a week and after the game? Yup. But he’s not uncooperative. For the record, I’ve gotten a decent answer to every decent question I’ve ever asked Cutler.

“But then again, I wasn’t trying to psychoanalyze him, and I didn’t have an agenda.”

To my surprise, Vikings fan Mike Florio at also comes to Cutler’s defense (probably because he dislikes Reilly even more than Cutler):

“Reilly’s effort to paint Cutler in a bad light has backfired like a ’71 Vega, exposing more about Reilly than he ever would want his audience to know. To Reilly, pro athletes should seek out as much attention as possible. To Reilly, pro athletes should lend their names and likeness to any and all companies that will pay them even more money and provide them even more attention. To Reilly, pro athletes should do charitable works in that same spotlight, so that everyone will see it and, in turn, love them.”

Before moving on, I’d like to mention here that both Florio and LeGere miss the main point.  Reilly isn’t just talking about self-publicity and charity work.  He’s talking about how Cutler treats other people.  He documents atrocious incidents with former NFL players John Lynch and John Elway that fit in exactly with Cutler’s personality.  This isn’t just a case of wanting to stay out of the lime light.  It goes much deeper than that.

The fact that Cutler did the charity work is laudable.  It shows that he really is a nice guy.

But beyond that, the truth is that Cutler just doesn’t want to deal with the publicity because he doesn’t like the work associated with it.  He doesn’t do endorsements not because he’s a private guy who like to do things in secret rather than being a self-promoting jerk.  He’s a guy who’s just too lazy to go out of his way to do something he doesn’t want to do.

Then there’s Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times who probably hits closer to the point I’d like to make (though its going to be extremely unpopular amongst the fans I interact with):

“I know, I know. As long as Cutler wins football games, nobody cares that he doesn’t look me in the eye when he tells me he doesn’t have the time to list all the areas of his game that have improved since Week 1. Or that he looks and sounds uninterested whether he’s interested or not. Or that nobody in the Halas Hall press room really knows him. Or that he doesn’t care that nobody in the Halas Hall press room knows him.”

“But before you endorse that popular line of thought, you might want to consider this: How many quarterbacks as awkward as Cutler in public forums have won the Super Bowl? How many quarterbacks as overtly disdainful — purposely or inadvertently — of the media process that molds much of his public image as Cutler have sustained success in the NFL?”

“I don’t think Tom Brady gives a damn about Antonio Cromartie popping off this week or anything Rex Ryan says or does. I think he has better things to do and other things on his mind. But he still spent most of his news conference Wednesday addressing the Cromartie and Ryan issues with substantive answers that at least on paper made it look like he actually cared.

“In reality, what Brady cares about is that other people care about it. Not just the reporters asking the questions, but the people who read the newspapers and websites and listen to the radio and watch television.”

Ryan Leaf and [Peyton] Manning were 1a-1b on everybody’s draft charts in 1998. Maybe it was just a coincidence that the polished Manning is going to the Hall of Fame and the jerky Leaf was 4-17 as a starter and out of the league at 25.”

No, it wasn’t a coincidence.  Potash knows it.  I know it and everyone reading the entry knows it.

Ryan Leaf failed in the NFL because an immature player who didn’t do what he didn’t want to do.  One of those things was prepare for football games.  Another was to make himself into a leader for the people around him – most importantly the players.

Fortunately Cutler isn’t as bad as Leaf.  But he’s got a lot of that in him and its probably limiting his success.  When asked by Reilly to defend Jay Cutler by telling him what kind of guy he is, Cutler “friend” Greg Olsen said this:

“He is what he is.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Its not that I think Cutler’s teammates dislike him like Leaf’s teammates did him.  But it obvious that he’s not exactly friendly, either.  That’s bad if you need to lead a team.

Here’s the key statement in Potash’s article:  “In reality, what Brady cares about is that other people care about it.” Contrast this with the sentiment that Reilly expresses so well:  “It’s hard to say what interests Cutler, but it’s definitely not you.”

In fact, Cutler doesn’t need to care about the media or even the fans they represent.  But he should care that other people care about their questions.  The fact that he doesn’t is an indication of something much more insidious in terms of team performance – if he doesn’t care about you then the likelihood is that he doesn’t care enough about the concerns of his teammates, either, particularly if they don’t directly effect him.  And unfortunately if you are going to be a leader of a group, you have to care about the concerns of the group, not just your own.  That means that sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do.

The central problem is that, as Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune put it so well, Cutler “has very little patience for doing things he has no interest in.”  It is fortunate for us that Cutler is interested in playing football.  But it is highly unlikely that he’s interested in doing all of the things associated with it, particularly – but not limited to – things that involve interaction with others.  I don’t know if this will keep Cutler from winning a Super Bowl with the Bears.  But it does seem clear to me that it might be hurting them.  If he really wants to give himself and the team the best chance to win, I think its a problem he needs to work to overcome.

What is in the Future for Guard Chris Williams?

Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions.  This time he opines about the future of former tackle and current guard Chris Williams:

“Coming out of the draft all the talk was about how athletic Chris Williams was as a pass blocker, but how he lacked in finishing blocks particularly with the run. He was always projected as a future left tackle. Do you think that is still how scouts see Chris? Will the Bears leave Chris Williams at guard now, how has he progressed at that position? Do you believe the Bears will focus on acquiring interior linemen or tackles base on their greatest need?– Jesse Donini, Venice, CA

“Very interesting question. I don’t think the Bears have determined where Williams’ future lies. This will be an organizational decision made after much discussion during the offseason. He’s been OK at guard. Nothing special. Personally, I think he probably has more potential at tackle. What I would probably do is move Williams back to tackle in the offseason and have him compete with J’Marcus Webb on the right side. Then I’d bring in a guard who I’d be comfortable with as a starter. If need be, Williams could always be moved back to guard.”

I’ve got a feeling that Brad Biggs, also at the Tribune, has the right of this question.  Biggs characterized the move as “semi-permanent”.  You probably don’t move your future at tackle to guard unless you think he’s probably going to stay there.  Otherwise you leave him where he is and let him develop.  That obviously wasn’t happening with Williams – at least not fast enough to satisfy offensive line coach Mike Tice.

Finally Someone Breaks Down the Patriots-Jets Matchup ON THE FIELD and Other Points of View


“We don’t ever get too rattled.  Plus, our coaching staff has been around for a while. There are some exciting times, [but] we stay pretty even-keel most of the time.”

“On Friday, [Seattle coach Pete] Carroll said: ‘‘We’re kicking the football, and he’s going to get it.’’ The day before, punter Jon Ryan said he would try to limit the amount of field Hester would have to work with by angling his punts toward the sidelines.”

This is, of course, what teams did the last couple years and what both Green Bay and Seattle did earlier this season.  It seemed to work as long as the punter executed it well.

“Special teams is about matchups, getting your best guys on their best guys so you don’t have a size difference or one guy isn’t more athletic than another,.Those things you all take into account when you game plan.”

  • Mark Potash, also at the Sun-Times, has this interesting quote from defensive tackle Anthony Adams about the teams lack of sacks against Seattle the first time around.  He seems to be suggesting the possibility that it was a scheme related problem:

‘‘For whatever reason, a lot of other teams were able to get sacks,’’ Adams said. ‘‘Maybe they didn’t run a 4-3 like we run it. Or ran a 3-4. I don’t know. There are a lot of different avenues you could go down. But you have to bring your A-game every week”

“I am tired of the carping over the offensive and defensive lines. Both are set and have a good mix of veterans and younger players. The draft need will be greatest at linebacker to begin grooming successors for Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. Do you agree or see a greater need? — Stuart Cutler, Winnetka

“I share your concern about the linebacker position, but I think the offensive and defensive lines are bigger concerns. I know you can play winning football with average, maybe even below average linebacker play. You’ve got no chance to be really good without above average lines. The Bears also need to start thinking about a successor to Olin Kreutz, and a successor to Tommie Harris. Plus they could use another guard, another offensive tackle and another defensive end. I think they need to see what the draft offers them and be prepared to take a lineman.”

“The Bears don’t build their defense around great cover cornerbacks. They build their defense around great pass rushers. I don’t think Asomugha, who will become one of the highest paid defensive players in football, would be a wise investment for the Bears and I don’t think they will pursue him.”

I would agree.  But the bears do have to get better in the defensive backfield.  You can’t play cover two every down.

“Have you ever asked Jay Cutler if he understands the concept of “throwing the ball away?” — Greg, Chicago

“No, I’ve never asked him, Greg. From watching him play, I think I already know the answer.”

  • It wouldn’t be right to quote the whole article.    Just one more and then you’ll have to read the rest on your own:

“Whenever I see [Devin] Aromashodu languishing on the sideline game after game, I keep thinking about Brandon Lloyd and how our coaching staff never gave him another opportunity after he was injured during his lone season in Chicago. The “other Devin” is our only big target and Jay clearly has a connection with him. ”

“– Jim Gordon, Memphis, Tenn.”

“I’d like to see more of Aromashodu as well.”

As would I.  I’ve heard this sentiment expressed by Bear fans over and over again.  But if Aromashodu is going to play more he needs to perform on special teams as well.  That means he has to block.

  • Michael C. Wright at explains that defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli‘s strength is as a teacher of the fundamentals of the game:

“Several players talk about Marinelli in meetings rehashing the same subjects over and over again, drilling them exhaustively to the point that most of those things morph to become second nature in game situations.

“The players also point to Marinelli’s motivational tactics — he puts together a video to pump up the defense before every game — and strict adherence to accountability in describing the coach’s worth.”

  • The experts at ESPN breakdown the Bear-Seahawks matchup:

  • Rachel Nichols at ESPN implies that the Seahawks might be more than passingly worried about withstanding the cold temperatures at Soldier Field Sunday:

  • And Lovie Smith explains a few things to Nichols as he talks about the Seahawks matchup:

  • Here’s the video I was looking for yesterday of Ron Jaworski at ESPN expressing concern of the number of negative plays the Bears generate on offense:


  • Asomugha, who is probably the premier free agent this off-season,  talks about his future in this video.  I’m thinking he might end up staying with the Raiders:

  • Jaworski talks about who will come out on top between Antonio Cromartie and Tom Brady on the field:

  • Todd McShay at ESPN goes through some overrated players entering the draft, including quarterback Ryan Mallett out of Arkansas:

  • The ESPN experts break down today’s the Packers-Falcons matchup:

  • and the Ravens-Steelers:

“Since 1990, the NFC’s top-seeded team is 18-2 in the division round. Yes, this season’s Week 12 game between the two teams was close, and the Packers are getting plenty of respect from Las Vegas. But if the Packers do pull off a victory, it will be only the third time in 21 years that a No. 1 seed has lost in the divisional round.”

One Final Thought

Though I’m still not convinced that Tommie Harris is all the way back to where he should be, there are a couple things that are undeniable.  One, he is making the occasional play.  And more importantly, as pointed out by Bears coach Lovie Smith through Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune, he handled his demotion really well earlier in the season:

“‘He couldn’t have handled the situation any better,’ Smith said of Harris. ‘To have to go to another role when you’re a star like that … he did it. He’s come to work every day. And he’s earned his position back.'”