Shutdown Corner - NFL

January 24, 2011

In defense of Jay Cutler

"Quitter" is about the worst label you can put on an NFL player. It's a culture where toughness is lionized and valued above all else -- if you're "tough," you're accepted, and if you're not, you have no one's respect.

After what happened Sunday, Jay Cutler(notes) is probably stuck with the "quitter" label for the rest of his career. At the very least, it's a question mark that'll follow him around for a long time.

And it's ridiculous.

The notion that he quit Sunday doesn't make sense. Cutler was playing poorly, so he wanted out of the game? He was taking a beating, so he didn't want to play anymore?

Like Jay Cutler has never played poorly or taken a beating before. As a matter of fact, if there's anything that Jay Cutler has proven in his career, it's that when he's throwing interceptions, he is absolutely willing to stay on the field and keep throwing interceptions. It's his defining trait.

Never once has Jay Cutler gotten gun shy. He has never been accused of not believing in his own ability, as evidenced by his constant willingness to make low-percentage throws into tight windows. No one ever said before Sunday, "Boy, playing poorly really seems to embarrass and affect Jay Cutler."

And if he was embarrassed and just didn't want to be in the game anymore, why would he stay on the sidelines in full view of everyone in the stadium? Wouldn't he just go hide in the locker room?

Leaving the game because he was taking a physical beating is even more absurd. Cutler took 52 sacks this year, 12 more than anyone else in the league, and missed one game due to injury (a concussion in Week 4 after the Giants sacked him nine times - yes, nine times -- in one half). Only 12 quarterbacks in the NFL played all 16 games this year. Cutler gave the Bears 15, despite taking more of a beating than anyone else.

The "but if he's healthy enough to stand on the sidelines, he's healthy enough to play!" rationale is ridiculous, too. I'd be willing to entertain that thought if it came from an orthopedist who performed a full exam on Jay Cutler's knee right after the injury.

No one knows what Cutler was feeling. No one even knows the exact nature of the injury yet. There are knee injuries that allow a man to stand, but still prevent him from doing other things.

It's not like he pulled out of a mini-golf contest here. He needs to plant that foot into the ground and throw. He needs to run. I do not accept "if you're physically capable of standing, you are physically capable of playing quarterback in the NFL" as truth.

There's no way he quit Sunday. He's not dumb -- he knows that all eyes were on him, and he knows that he doesn't want the stigma of a quitter. There's no way he'd invite that on himself unless he knew he couldn't play effectively. No part of "Jay Cutler quit" makes sense.

Cutler's always had a persona that's seemed aloof and detached. Perhaps, to some, that makes him unlikable. That's fine. No one has to like Jay Cutler, and any criticism he gets for playing poorly Sunday is well-deserved. He was a disaster.

But to call him a quitter is a completely different thing, and it's unfair to do it because you don't like the look on the man's face. His demeanor might not be the most enthusiastic, but there's nothing in his history that suggests "quitter." Nothing.

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