Word this morning is that Jay Cutler suffered a torn medial collateral ligament in his knee, an injury that would seriously inhibit his ability to plant and throw the ball.
This information has gone overlooked by angry Bear fans who today are burning their Jay Cutler jerseys. Now, don't misunderstand - I am not a Jay Cutler fan. Just in watching his demeanor in television interviews is enough to find him unattractive to the average football fan.
He always appears to be distracted and somewhat annoyed to even be involved in the questioning.
But I agree with another writer who said:
"I was stunned that Cutler didn't return for the second half, especially with their backup quarterback situation. However, Cutler should never be criticized for his physical toughness. The Bears offensive line surrendered 56 sacks throughout the regular season, and that trend continued in the NFC Championship. An offensive line's goal is to protect the quarterback. For Chicago, Cutler is a tackling dummy who'll get sacked a half a dozen times in the first half before being knocked out of the contest.
This isn't the first time that Cutler has been abused. He's only missed one game due to injury after the New York Giants debacle after being sacked more than any other quarterback this season. Common sense suggests that he isn't taking "The easy way out" of a game that they're only down by fourteen early in the third quarter. Not with Todd Collins(notes) as the second option. Not after getting that close to the Super Bowl and potentially silencing doubters for good.
Lovie Smith and the medical staff's decision to bench Cutler appeared to be a good one as Caleb Hanie(notes) nearly brought the Bears back. Hanie's mobility and the Packers lack of preparation or knowledge of Hanie was critical in the Bears comeback. With Cutler, he'd have been limited when trying to escape the Packers pass rush, and his knee could have taken more damage. Now, they'd be risking their young franchise quarterback for 2011.
Cutler's physical toughness should be the last thing questioned. The biggest concern about Cutler was his psychological toughness after being sidelined. Cutler is often shown with his head hanging down and a depressed facial expression. The most bizarre image was of him listening to what looked like an iPod on the sideline. Maybe that was some sort of headset, but I'd prefer to see him interact and encourage his teammates in that scenario, especially with Caleb Hanie.
The Bears should be playoff competitors next season. However, it won't matter if Jay Cutler or Joe Montana is situated behind that offensive line. The Bears must restructure their offensive line and give Cutler and Mike Martz an opportunity to thrive, not die."
I guess it didn't help that receiver Bobby Wade claims that while in the company of Brian Urlacher last year, Urlacher told him that he thinks Cutler "is a pussy."
Yesterday, after the game, Urlacher defended his quarterback:
Jay Culter offered a "no comment" when asked about other players questioning his toughness following the Chicago Bears' NFC Championship loss, but linebacker Brian Urlacher did the talking for him. Informed that players sitting at home were trashing Cutler on Twitter and questioning the injury that sidelined him, Urlacher fired back, calling them jealous while standing up for his quarterback. Cutler suffered an apparent knee injury during Sunday's game and was forced to sit on the sidelines for the remainder of the game at the training staff's behest.
Urlacher didn't take to the criticism kindly, calling out the other players sitting at home with their seasons already over.
"Who cares what they think?" he said. "That's my response to them. They are not playing in this game. Jay was hurt, obviously. There's no reason for him to be out there if he can't get it done. He was obviously hurt pretty bad or he would have played."
"For them to question his toughness is stupid to me."