CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 23: Quarterback Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears throws out his right arm to avoid a tackle by Charles Woodson #21 of the Green Bay Packers in the second quarter of the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
That's the easy explanation, anyway. Once Caleb Hanie came into the game, the Bears looked amazing, right? Stupid Jay. All Jay's fault.
It's easy to pin the loss on Cutler. The Bears paid a fortune for this franchise QB. And in the biggest game of the year, he strolls off the field with an unseen injury, then stands on the sidelines looking like Droopy Dog while the rest of the Bears sweat and strain.
Jay's fault. Jay's fault.
Never mind that the Bears let the Packers march down the field and punch the opening drive into the end zone without much effort. Never mind that Bear receivers couldn't get much separation all day. Never mind that the field position was terrible. Never mind that the Packers were the hungrier team.
Let's blame Jay.
While we're at it, let's blame Jay for calling a reverse on 3rd-and-3 with 1:15 left in the game. Sure, Jay was on the sidelines, but that was a boneheaded call. This isn't college. Goofy WR-run plays are terrible calls 90 percent of the time. Jay should have known better, even if he wasn't in the game.
And let's blame Jay for Brian Urlacher falling over at the slightest touch of Aaron Rodgers. At 6'4" and 258 pounds, Urlacher hardly can be expected to maintain balance when a quarterback grazes his leg. It's Jay's fault our linebacker couldn't steamroll Rodgers and take that pick to the house.
Blaming Jay is the easy thing to do. He's the quarterback. He was supposed to be the difference-maker. And in a weekend when Aaron Rodgers was spitting blood, Ben Roethlisberger took a painful hit to the hip and Mark Sanchez's arm got crushed, Cutler's phantom injury sets him apart. You could see why the other QBs were wincing. What happened to Jay?
Two possibilities. One, Jay Cutler was legitimately injured. We don't know how it happened, but something catastrophic happened to his knee. Staying in the game would have jeopardized the Bears' chances. Jay sitting out was the right thing to do.
Or... Jay Cutler is a liar. He's a whiny, quitter baby. He thought the game was too tough, so he wussed out and hid on the sidelines.
Which is the truth? We'll never know. It sure didn't look like he was injured. And in the game of football, we have men like Brett Favre who throw the ball with purple, dead, decaying flesh. We have Byron Leftwich, unable to walk and being carried by his offensive linemen in college. That's what we want to see. We want to see Jay Cutler carted off the field or we won't buy his excuse.
The problem is, the Bears are being fairly lackadaisical in defending their quarterback. Aside from Brian Urlacher, you're not hearing a ton of support. Somebody -- Lovie, a doctor, Mike Martz -- needed to step up and say it was their call that Jay couldn't play. Instead, you're hearing wimpy excuses. The fanbase would respect someone stepping forward and saying definitively, "Jay was hurt, I decided we had to make a change for the good of the team." But we're not getting that.
Here's what Lovie said after the game. "Jay hurt his knee, he couldn’t go. He tried to go, that last series there of the first half, took a shot to the knee, tried to go, went in and worked on him a little bit at the half but he came out. He just couldn’t go, team, doctors and all. There was no decision really. He was injured."
Way to man up, Coach. Your quarterback is getting murdered on Twitter and all over the city. Stand up and put it on your shoulders. Defend your player. Drag a doctor out in front of the press and have him explain that it was medically impossible for Cutler to continue. Because this wishy-washy explanation isn't cutting it. "There was no decision really"? Make a decision. Take responsibility.
And while you're at it, Coach, take responsibility for leaving Todd Collins at second string. Didn't we see enough of that clown in Carolina?
Maybe Cutler is a faking lying faker whose pants are totally on fire from the magnitude of his faking lies. Maybe he should have played it up by using crutches or writhing in pain. Maybe then the entire city wouldn't want his head on a platter.
But the bottom line is that the entire Bears team lost. Caleb Hanie is not the answer, people. He had success because the Packers simultaneously got bored and started playing prevent defense.
Yes, Cutler overthrew receivers. But it's not like they were all that open. Cutler is still a young quarterback. He's only been here two seasons. He's only played with the Mike Martz offense one year. And the Bears' wide receivers are some of the worst in the league. Devin Hester really has no business as a full time receiver. Five bucks says you don't remember the names "Johnny Knox" or "Earl Bennett" in 10 years.
When you look back on this season, you will see a team that truly overachieved. No one expected the Bears to be in the NFC Championship game. Remember what a mess they were before the bye week. The team improved. They crushed the Seahawks. And they played a pretty awful game and still came within a touchdown of the Super Bowl.
As we head into a long and dark offseason, ask yourself this: Would you want to play quarterback in a city that wants you dead for being injured? Would you want to play for a coach who wouldn't aggressively defend you in front of the media? Would you want to play quarterback for an organization that can't draft a decent wide receiver?
Chicago has a choice to make. Either back your quarterback or turn on him. But if you do turn on him and he was actually injured, you'll probably deserve the next decade of QB futility to come.