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    Bryan Burwell Burwell: Cutler provokes a storm ..

    BY BRYAN BURWELL Monday, January 24, 2011 11:10 am


    CHICAGO Go ahead and paint a picture of what a Chicago Bears-Green Bay Packers playoff battle ought to be. You begin with black and blue, of course, and then you begin to conjure up images of tough-as-nails old-school warriors with crooked noses and gnarled fingers snorting out frozen clouds through their facemasks. You vividly imagine a cold-war conflict waged on a caked-up field full of frozen dirt.

    Bears versus Packers is supposed to be a fight of football Neanderthals, and I mean that as a compliment. You envision it always as a knuckles-in-the-dirt tussle between the NFL's toughest men. It evokes the memory of Lombardi and Halas, Ditka and Kramer, Butkus and Nitschke, Payton and Favre, Reggie White and Mike Singletary.

    So somebody please tell me how in the name of everything sacred about the NFL that someone like Jay Cutler will now have his name permanently etched into the soul of this glorious football war? The story that had everyone buzzing after Sunday's NFC championship game at frozen Soldier Field wasn't the victorious Packers and the manner in which they won this 21-14 game.

    Instead, it was the puzzling disappearance from the heat of the championship game of the Bears' starting quarterback. When people look back on this historic contest between the oldest rivals in the NFL, they will have to reflect on why the Bears' starting QB was standing on the sidelines in the second half of a very winnable game with a cape draped over his shoulders, a flat expression on his face and a vague explanation about why he couldn't play on in a game that could have taken his team to the Super Bowl.

    Soon perhaps the world may look more kindly upon Cutler and his injured knee. When the MRI result comes in and if it shows his left knee was in tatters, perhaps we'll all look back and wonder why anyone would dare to question his toughness.

    It's always difficult to question a man's toughness when it comes to playing with pain and without seeing his MRI results. But this is pro football, and it's done all the time. Even in this modern world of knee-jerk judgments and instantaneous opinions on social networks, I have never seen such universal willingness by peers to so publicly question a player's competitive heart and soul.

    On Sunday before the third quarter had ended, Cutler was being savaged by his peers around the NFL, many of them instantly tweeting their dissatisfaction with his inability (or desire) to finish this championship game. It was a classic example of "Fire, ready, aim," and I'll be honest with you, I was right there with them. His own peers around the NFL were tweeting that they couldn't believe in a game of this magnitude, Cutler would allow anyone to take him out of the game no matter how badly he tweaked his knee. Here's a Twitter sample of some of the reaction:

    Mark Schlereth: "As a guy (who) had 20 knee surgeries, you'd have to drag me out on a stretcher to leave a championship game!"

    Maurice Jones-Drew: "All I'm saying is that he can finish the game on a hurt knee ... I played the whole season on one "

    Asante Samuel: 'If he was my teammate I would be looking at him sideways. ... I luv my QB @mikevick he has the heart of a lion. I guess others are scared of success."

    Kirk Morrison: "If my knee was hurt or acl/mcl/pcl sprain, I would not be standing up on the sideline."

    Darnell Dockett: "If I'm on chicago team jay cutler has to wait till me and the team shower get dressed and leave before he comes in the locker room!"

    This is a warrior sport played by men who value toughness and respect teammates who are willing to sacrifice their bodies for the greater goal of a potential victory. Players of legendary stature and lesser souls make those physical compromises every day.

    The Cutler reaction says a lot about a lot of things. It confirms that he just might be the most unpopular man in the National Football League, a frowning sourpuss who will never get the benefit of the doubt from anyone because he always appears to be such a disagreeable human being.

    People in the league want to dislike Cutler, and they didn't feel the need to wait to get any test results to question his character. In his own locker room a lot of players publicly and passionately defended him. "Jay was hurt," linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "I don't question his toughness. He's tough as hell. He's one of the toughest guys on our football team."

    Center Olin Kreutz defended the quarterback in even stronger terms as he reacted to his tweeting NFL peers. "That's stupid," he said. "That's ignorant. I could see (the knee) wiggling when he was walking back into the huddle. Yeah, well, they're at home talking (trash). They need to shut up."

    But there were just as many teammates in that locker room who didn't want to be quoted who were more than willing to question Cutler, too. When he showed up to answer questions after the game, Cutler did not have a brace or soft cast on the knee, and he didn't use crutches to walk out of the stadium. That did not go unnoticed.

    "Where's the brace?" said one player.

    "What's going on?" said another player. "I saw him standing on the sidelines. I was trying to figure it out. Was he hurt? How hurt was he? I mean, he was standing there, no crutches. Strange, very strange. Mighty big stage to be on and just leave like that. Just strange."

    Here's what's very strange indeed. On the biggest stage of the season, the biggest stage of his career and long before he got hurt Cutler was already looking like "Bad Jay," the unreliable alter ego who can't do anything right when his teammates need him the most. "Bad Jay" was atrocious the entire time he was on the field, completing only six of 14 passes for 80 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. The knock on Cutler has always been that he is as gifted physically as any passer in football, but wildly unpredictable because he is so casual about things like his footwork and throwing techniques, and he lived down to that reputation on Sunday.

    Long before he got hit on the knee in that last drive of the first half, he had already missed on two or three plays that could have and should have been touchdown throws.

    Of course, a lot of people may want a mulligan for questioning Cutler's toughness if that MRI shows that there was some serious damage done to his knee, enough that it would have been impossible for him to have stayed on the field.

    For Cutler's sake, I hope that's the case, because that will at least allow him to deflect some of the venom that is sure to continue to come his way from a Bears fan base that is convinced he could have just rubbed some dirt on it and gotten back into the fight. But that still won't help him to overcome the biggest task of the offseason for the Bears' starting QB.

    How will he ever earn the forgiveness of this big-shouldered football town when fans stop trying to figure out if he wimped out on them at halftime because of his gimpy knee and start to understand that he may have emotionally checked out of the competition way before that ...


  2. #2
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    Re: Bryan Burwell Burwell: Cutler provokes a storm ..

    Go figure. Burwell throwing darts at someone without all the facts.

    Not the first time, is it, Bryan?
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Bryan Burwell Burwell: Cutler provokes a storm ..

    Not sure that's the case. It seemed a significant chunk of Burwell's article was to point out that the reaction wasn't just rabid knee-jerk fans but also players around the league and even some in the Bears' own locker room.

    The fact that Cutler came to the post-game press conference without a brace or cast, without crutches, is interesting. Even more interesting when you consider he went to dinner with his girlfriend and nearly a dozen others in an upstairs restaurant setting after the game.

    It's only been a few years since Philip Rivers played with a torn ACL in the AFC Championship game against New England, and for Bears fans, they've spent years watching Favre play through pain in their division. An MCL tear is no laughing matter, but my understanding is that it's also not devastating and, depending on the severity, may not even require surgery.

    (EDIT: Lovie Smith referred to it as an MCL sprain in this afternoon's press conference and said Cutler would have been questionable had they advanced to the Super Bowl).

    Only Cutler knows for sure how bad the pain was and whether or not he could continue to play, but his body language on the sidelines and some of these post-game pieces of info may be the bigger issue for some, causing not just fans and talking heads to question him, but also players around the league as well.
    Last edited by Nick; -01-24-2011 at 03:34 PM.

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    Re: Bryan Burwell Burwell: Cutler provokes a storm ..

    Just a tough, tough situation to be in. While it is VERY unfair for fans, other players around the league watching at home, his teammates and coaches, etc. to judge him because he appeared as though he could still play, I found it very disturbing that he was standing on the sideline and did not even show a glimpse of desire in wanting to go back out or telling the coaches " NO, I got this one ! " and letting them determine whether he goes back our out.

    He has always seemed to fold under pressure, however, and this was very evident today BEFORE the injury, no doubt. But the man said he couldnt go, like Lovie Smith said, so its very hard to determine if going out made any sense. BUT I tell you one thing, like I said, the unwilling desire, the lack of display or care or concern, staring into space, not even trying to be involved in the game after that, spoke more volumes about him than the injury itself. The only justification he has at this point, and this is AFTER the fact, was that the MRI showed he had a torn MCL in his knee, which is pretty much unplayable. But no brace, no crutches, it just didnt look right .

    TOUGH, TOUGH situation, you gatta feel for the kid, but come on man. Fight harder and show more desire for your team in a game of this magnitude!!!

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    Re: Bryan Burwell Burwell: Cutler provokes a storm ..

    I'm of the understanding you can walk on a jacked up MCL. You CANNOT however do anything more arduous than walking (such as, I don't know...play NFL football) on a jacked up MCL.

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    Re: Bryan Burwell Burwell: Cutler provokes a storm ..

    I will not go as far as questioning Cutlers toughness, but if I'm a Bears fan, it'd be his leadership qualities and initiative I'd be concerned with. I did not see when he got injured or was taken out of the game, but when I did see Hanie out there and Cutler on the Bench (particularly when Hanie was sitting next to an emotion-less Cutler who looked as if it was the 4th quarter of a preseason game) I immediately wondered if the injury he suffered was severe enough to ultimately be the reason he wasn't more involved in the sideline:

    Exchanging words with coachs about what he noticed on the field while he was playin; Talking with whatever qb was playing at the moment while they were waiting to go back in; etc.

    You can't expect someone to change all the sudden, but I'd figure in what could possibly be the last time you play in a game of this importance, you'd probably make a bigger effort to be there in whatever way possible for your teammates.

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    Re: Bryan Burwell Burwell: Cutler provokes a storm ..

    I'm guessing all the knee-jerk reactive Bear fans are all going to bash on Cutler's leadership skills the same way us Rams fan did back when Bulger was at the helm?

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    Re: Bryan Burwell Burwell: Cutler provokes a storm ..

    Quote Originally Posted by fliptalianstallion View Post
    I'm guessing all the knee-jerk reactive Bear fans are all going to bash on Cutler's leadership skills the same way us Rams fan did back when Bulger was at the helm?
    Quote Originally Posted by unorthodox1999 View Post
    I will not go as far as questioning Cutlers toughness, but if I'm a Bears fan, it'd be his leadership qualities and initiative I'd be concerned with. I did not see when he got injured or was taken out of the game, but when I did see Hanie out there and Cutler on the Bench (particularly when Hanie was sitting next to an emotion-less Cutler who looked as if it was the 4th quarter of a preseason game) I immediately wondered if the injury he suffered was severe enough to ultimately be the reason he wasn't more involved in the sideline:

    Exchanging words with coachs about what he noticed on the field while he was playin; Talking with whatever qb was playing at the moment while they were waiting to go back in; etc.

    You can't expect someone to change all the sudden, but I'd figure in what could possibly be the last time you play in a game of this importance, you'd probably make a bigger effort to be there in whatever way possible for your teammates.
    what makes me concerned is he is just on the sideline not giving a crap about anything! Not working with the back up QB's to help prepare them or anything....Never seen that... heck even Bulger would talk and help the backup QB's we had when they came off the field or TO's.... altho I didn't care for Bulger's non-chalant attitude I'd take him in a heartbeat over Cutler...

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    Re: Bryan Burwell Burwell: Cutler provokes a storm ..

    Whatever the extent of the injury was/is. It's the NFC Championship game at home in front of his rabid fans. He has to play!!!!!

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    Re: Bryan Burwell Burwell: Cutler provokes a storm ..

    Quote Originally Posted by ZiaRam View Post
    what makes me concerned is he is just on the sideline not giving a crap about anything! Not working with the back up QB's to help prepare them or anything....Never seen that... heck even Bulger would talk and help the backup QB's we had when they came off the field or TO's.... altho I didn't care for Bulger's non-chalant attitude I'd take him in a heartbeat over Cutler...
    How do you know he's not on the wireless mike helping to relay plays? It's not good to be animated about doing that. And with an iffy knee he's probably not going to grab a pom pom from the nearest cheerleader and proclaim "GO TEAM!"

    ------------------------------------------------
    To laram0. If a quarterback has a knee injury both his mobility and general ability to throw on target will be greatly inhibited by the injury. And such inhibitions are detrimental to the success of the team. He's not Tom Nutten, who only has to block the guy in front of him.

    Honestly, the cult of meathead "Rah play until your crippled, and then play harder because of the team or circumstances" logic is one of the few thing I genuinely hate about football.

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    Re: Bryan Burwell Burwell: Cutler provokes a storm ..

    Quote Originally Posted by fliptalianstallion View Post
    I'm guessing all the knee-jerk reactive Bear fans are all going to bash on Cutler's leadership skills the same way us Rams fan did back when Bulger was at the helm?
    Possibly, but I don't recall anyone questioning Marc's toughness. He may not have been a fiery leader, but Bulger was like the energizer bunny in that he always tried to keep going. The poor guy really took a beating over the last few years as a Ram.

    Burwell's comment:
    How will he ever earn the forgiveness of this big-shouldered football town when fans stop trying to figure out if he wimped out on them at halftime because of his gimpy knee and start to understand that he may have emotionally checked out of the competition way before that ...
    That last part is intriguing .. From the look of Jay on the sidelines I can't help but wonder ..

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    Re: Bryan Burwell Burwell: Cutler provokes a storm ..

    Quote Originally Posted by PeoriaRam View Post
    How do you know he's not on the wireless mike helping to relay plays?
    We don't ..


    ------------------------------------------------
    Quote Originally Posted by PeoriaRam View Post
    To laram0. If a quarterback has a knee injury both his mobility and general ability to throw on target will be greatly inhibited by the injury. And such inhibitions are detrimental to the success of the team. He's not Tom Nutten, who only has to block the guy in front of him.
    I hope Nutten doesn't read that one ..

    Quote Originally Posted by PeoriaRam View Post
    Honestly, the cult of meathead "Rah play until your crippled, and then play harder because of the team or circumstances" logic is one of the few thing I genuinely hate about football.
    On the other hand, how often does a team have the chance to play in a Super Bowl? How bad did Jay want it? Any way you slice it, the NFL is a gladiator mentality sport, and GMs, coaches, teammates and fans all want/expect this from players. Why do these guys get paid so much - particularly quarterbacks? They're well compensated (nowadays) for exactly that: to put it all on the line, especially in a championship game. Meathead mentality? Then there must be a fair amount of meathead mentality in all of us fans who love this sport ... Time perhaps will tell if Jay mailed it in or not. Until then, everyone is free to speculate one way or another ..

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    Re: Bryan Burwell Burwell: Cutler provokes a storm ..

    Quote Originally Posted by MauiRam View Post
    I hope Nutten doesn't read that one ..
    I'm not questioning Nutten's ability, just pointing out there is a pronounced difference regarding mobility and leg use between the duties of an offensive lineman and a quarterback. You can "get away" with a knee injury for one (sort of). You can't with the other.

    On the other hand, how often does a team have the chance to play in a Super Bowl? How bad did Jay want it? Any way you slice it, the NFL is a gladiator mentality sport, and GMs, coaches, teammates and fans all want/expect this from players. Why do these guys get paid so much - particularly quarterbacks? They're well compensated (nowadays) for exactly that: to put it all on the line, especially in a championship game. Meathead mentality? Then there must be a fair amount of meathead mentality in all of us fans who love this sport ... Time perhaps will tell if Jay mailed it in or not. Until then, everyone is free to speculate one way or another ..
    On the contrary, the stakes are why you take Cutler out of the game. You are in a close game for the Super Bowl, but due to injury your quarterback has been reduced to a virtually immobile statue with a poor throwing ability. And you have a mediocre offensive line facing a Super Bowl caliber defense. Now do you keep plugging away with that QB, or do you change him out for somebody without those major injury handicaps. I know which move makes sense to me. You can't just simply say "OK damaged knee, support my full weight as I throw or make cuts". The knee's going to say "bleep you, this isn't a matter of will, this is a matter of science and I can't physically do that. Bye". This is the NFL, not the Little Engine that Could.

    Of course, when you mention the salary, there's another reason for taking him out. With the millions Cutler makes, risking permanent injury strikes me as a very poor return on investment. Regardless of what you are playing for at the moment.

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    Re: Bryan Burwell Burwell: Cutler provokes a storm ..

    I've never liked or respected Cutler. His history has shown that he has no physical or mental toughness and crumples like tin foil under pressure, then regularly pouts, sulks and cries. I'm very interested to see just how "bad" his injury is because he certainly did not look like a guy who was suffering. I would understand him not being in the game if his play would have been a detriment to the team, but it didn't apprear to me that he tried in any way to gut it out and see what he could do.

    IMO, any "injured" NFL QB with half a heart would have to be dragged off the field kicking and screaming, or laying on a stretcher with a chance to go to the Super Bowl on the line. Marc Bulger played with multiple broken ribs a few years ago for a team going nowhere, and in his final game as a Ram on a broken leg. Brett Favre played with two broken bones in his ankle this year on a last place team. We all know about Jack Youngblood. Maybe Cutler really couldn't play, but he'll never be confused with any player that posseses a warrior mentality.

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    Re: Bryan Burwell Burwell: Cutler provokes a storm ..

    Reminds me of something I saw about John Wall (Washington Wizards) on ESPN. The story goes that he actually asked the team to fine him every time the coach caught him sulking. Not a lot, but just enough to keep him thinking about it because he recognized he sometimes had an attitude problem. I like that the kid is at least aware that his body language and his mentality are important as the face of the franchise. Whether Cutler's injury was legit or not, it's the actions and the body language that make people question Cutler more than they might others. He doesn't project leadership, and he didn't exactly look like he was aching to be back out there, did he?

    I remember years ago before Peyton Manning was a household name, I saw him trying to run a no huddle with his broken jaw wired shut. He had to have a splint to stabilize his teeth. They finished 6-10 that season. I'm not saying guys should go out there when they might cause permanent damage by doing so, but one of the inspiring things about sport is seeing guys try to overcome adversity. Cutler just gives off the vibe that when adversity threatens, Jay is out of there.

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