Did Cutler Quit, Or Not?
It was easily the most controversial question of Conference Championship Sunday.
Did the Bears’ Jay Cutler quit, or not?
The argument continues to rage today and is likely to continue until the results of an MRI on his injured knee are known. Maybe there is damage there and he was unable to plant and throw off it. You hate to accuse somebody of faking, or overestimating, an injury before you know all the facts.
But let’s just say it appeared suspicious. Especially since the quarterback had been beaten up and frustrated throughout a scoreless first half for Chicago. Long before he trotted off with the reported knee problem, never to return, early in the third quarter, he looked like a fighter who didn’t want to come out for the next round.
His body language was a dead giveaway. His expression was dour, his shoulders sagged, his eyes seemed glazed. Green Bay only led 14-0 at halftime, but watching Cutler, you would have thought it was 64-0.
Funny thing was, after Cutler “retired” for the day, somebody named Caleb Hanie came in and almost directed the Bears all the way back, eventually falling short, 21-14. Now, I don’t want to say Hanie is an unknown, but I’ve been covering sports for more than 45 years, and I didn’t know who he was. So I’m betting most of you didn’t know, either.
After the game, Cutler’s teammates angrily defended him. One said his knee was shaking in the huddle at one point, and others said they’ve never questioned their quarterback’s toughness.
But players from around the league were tweeting — and yes, it’s come to that now — and much of it wasn’t complimentary to Cutler. They said if he could stand on the knee, he should be playing on it. They reiterated that you don’t come out of a championship game unless they carry you out, especially if you’re a quarterback.
No sport has more of a macho code than football. And unless that MRI shows serious damage, Cutler will have to face serious questions about this game for a long time.
It’s too bad, because it was clear the Bears weren’t going to win with him at quarterback, anyway. The “Good Cutler,” who had looked like the league’s most improved player through the regular season and even in the first Chicago game of the playoffs. disappeared. And The “Bad Cutler,” the one who had been so erratic a year ago, returned.
He was frazzled and ineffective through the first two periods, missing open receivers and generally being overwhelmed by the Packers’ pass rush. He in no way looked like a quarterback prepared to lead his team to a second half comeback.
In a sense, the injury saved him.
Unfortunately, it probably will take more than that now to save his reputation.
A few quick hits on the two title games:
The Packers have opened up 21/2 point favorites over the Steelers in ‘Vegas for Super Bowl 45. Not sure I agree. Seems like a pick-it game to me . . .
Pittsburgh’s 24-19 victory over the Jets was eerily similar to the Packers’ win. The Steelers dominated even more in the first half, especially with a running game that outgained New York 135 to 1, and built up a 24-0 lead. Then they had to hang on as the Jets shut them out, 19-0, in the final two periods . . .
The difference in the game was Rashard Mendenhall, who ran for 121 yards, allowing Mike Tomlin’s team to control the ball for most of the first half . . .
Still not sure that pivotal fumble call against Mark Sanchez was correct. His right arm appeared to be moving forward to me . . .
Ben Roethlisberger never will be mistaken for Tom Brady or Peyton Manning style-wise. But he is tough and he knows how to win big games. He could tie Brady with three Super Bowl victories if he wins this one . . . .
My No. 1 rule of the Super Bowl is the best defense wins. The tricky part this time is trying to figure which of these two excellent defenses is better . . .
Sad to see LaDainian Tomlinson just a shadow of his old, Hall of Fame-caliber self in this game. Now you know why the Chargers gave up on him . . .
The Jets’ Sanchez has nothing to be embarrassed about. He hung in there and rallied his team beautifully in the second half. That’s more than Cutler could say . . .
I still can’t get over Caleb Hanie. Tell you what, though: If the NFL goes to 18 regular season games, you’ll be seeing a lot of Caleb Hanies all around the league . . .
— STEVE BISHEFF