CHICAGO - OCTOBER 24: Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears talks with teammates including Caleb Hanie #12 on the bench during a game against the Washington Redskins at Soldier Field on October 24, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Redskins defeated the Bears 17-14. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Jay Cutler; Caleb Hanie
There is plenty of vitriol in the air after the Bears lost in the NFC Championship, but unfortunately, it's pointed in the wrong direction. Jay Cutler, who left the game with a knee injury that turned out to be a torn MCL, is receiving the brunt of criticism. It should be pointed towards the armchair orthopedic surgeons who called Cutler a quitter, and the Bears staff who didn't plan for disaster.
Several of Cutler's NFL mates went after the QB during the game, questioning his toughness. Though not one of them is an orthopedic surgeon who had examine Cutler, or even an athlete who made it to the NFC Championship despite being the most-sacked man in the NFL, they had him diagnosed as a quitter. It doesn't matter that team doctors and coaches made the decision, and that they had no idea of the seriousness of Cutler's injury, they had him tried and convicted. The crime? No heart.
A charge that Cutler's teammates -- the ones who know him best, the ones who were with him in the locker room, the ones who can tell you about the beating Cutler has taken all season long -- find preposterous. Brian Urlacher called Cutler "one of the toughest guys on the team," correctly pointing out that the players attacking Cutler were sitting at home while the Bears were in the playoffs. Olin Kreutz, Cutler's center for two seasons, was surprised that Cutler would even try to play in the second half. Safety Chris Harris played through injury on Sunday and took to Twitter to defend Cutler. "I will defend my QB all day. He was injured and he couldn't go. No one on our team questions his toughness POINT BLANK! He's a tough SOB."
Players coming off a heartbreaking game shouldn't have to defend their quarterback when it was their coaches who made the decision to pull Cutler. The coaches, on the other hand, have explaining to do. Not so much for taking out an injured player, but for not preparing for that player's injury.
Including the playoffs, Cutler was sacked 57 times this season. That doesn't include the times he was hit after throwing a pass, or tackled after running for a first down. It doesn't take a genius to see that this guy just might get injured. True, he showed his toughness throughout the season as he continually stood up after every sack, missing just six quarters of football for a concussion, but toughness doesn't guard the team against leg injuries.
Why weren't Todd Collins or Caleb Hanie given more snaps throughout the season? Collins looked completely lost when he was asked to fill in for Cutler. Hanie did a much better job, but was still out of sync with the rest of the offense. If they were given more snaps during the season, that deer-in-the-headlights look could have been avoided. In the Bears games against Miami, Minnesota and New England, Hanie or Collins could have been given a shot. Instead, yesterday's game was the first time both had played since the Bears win over Carolina on Oct. 10.
The Bears loss sucked. There's no question about it, but if we're going to be angry, Bears fans, let's be angry at the right people.