Monday, January 24, 2011

Cutler’s Toughness Debatable, but Lameness Confirmed

It kills me to be talking about Jay Cutler the day after the Packers punched their ticket to Super Bowl XLV.  But with most of the national sports media “questioning Cutler’s toughness” rather than hyping the Packers’ undeniable awesomeness, I feel compelled to give my take on the situation in the hopes of putting the story behind us.

Following in the wake of a slew of NFL commentators and players criticizing Cutler for leaving the game in the second half, reports surfaced today that Cutler likely suffered a “second degree MCL tear.”  Or maybe just a “strain.”  Regardless of the medical diagnosis, I have no doubt that Cutler was injured.  I also believe that, in spite of walking around and standing on the sideline in a cozy jacket, that he probably was in a lot of pain and probably should have sat out the rest of the game.  And I can certainly understand why you wouldn't want B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews chasing you around with a torn ligament in your knee.

What I found surprising in the aftermath was the indignant tone among those who came to Cutler’s defense.  As if, “how dare you question the toughness of Jay Cutler!?”  Let me lay it out for you why Cutler’s injury conjured up such a shit storm: people don’t like him.  By “him”, I don’t mean the “real” him.  By numerous accounts, Jay Cutler the person is a really good guy.  I’ve heard many sports personalities and fellow players who know him assert that.  And the credibility of that private persona was enhanced for me this week when none other than Aaron Rodgers attested that he was good friends with Cutler and appreciated everything Jay did for his younger brother who played with him at Vanderbilt.

But Jay Cutler the public persona comes across as a complete a-hole.  He whines.  He mopes.  He looks disinterested.  He rolls his eyes and slouches his shoulders like a petulant child.  He dismisses the throngs of reporters at his locker with “no comment.”  Overall, he just gives off an air that makes you want to smack him.  As TriggPack readers know, he is Cody Hanson.

If the difference between Cutler’s public persona and private persona is really that great, it’s unfortunate.  Many people would assert that it’s unfair to judge a person so harshly through the eyes of the media.  But that is the reality of playing football in the NFL.  It’s part of the deal.  You can’t be a prick to the people who are paid to cover you, and then complain when that coverage is unfavorable.

No more stark a contrast from Cutler could be found in the NFL than his opponent Sunday.  Aaron Rodgers, who lived through his own tornado of media scrutiny and public mis-interpretation of who he was and what he stood for as a human being, has done an amazing job cultivating his public persona.  Rodgers has clearly focused on building a rapport with the media, and, through the media, with fans.  He is generous with his time, sincere in his responses, thoughtful in his commentary, and comes across overall as a completely nice, likeable guy.  The benefit of that?  People want Rodgers to succeed.  If it had been Rodgers who had left the game, he wouldn’t have been swirling in public criticism and second-guessing.  Why?  Because he’s earned the media’s and the public’s respect, trust and admiration.

Jay Cutler clearly doesn’t value that relationship.  That’s fine – it’s his prerogative.  But don’t come back and bitch about it or claim it’s unfair when people question your toughness, or, for that matter, any other aspect of your personality.  Those of us in the “real world” live by the same rules.  We don’t get to be jackasses to some people and best buds to others – at least not without some people disliking us.  If Jay doesn’t want to get criticized, he needs to play by those rules too.

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