Commentary

Cutler tries to rise above heat

Critics lining up for Bears quarterback, but he says go ahead -- he's not listening

Updated: October 27, 2010, 7:45 PM ET
By Melissa Isaacson | ESPNChicago.com

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- What is it about Jay Cutler?

Five turnovers, including four interceptions, you say?

Not a bad place to start, but it always seems to go beyond that with the Bears quarterback, who seems to have drawn to his personality, which seems to have drawn not merely criticism but outright condemnation from all quarters throughout his career.

Hall of Famers. Future Hall of Famers. Former coaches. Future coaches. And on Wednesday, a former Pro Bowl safety and now NBC analyst who carved up Cutler like a Halloween pumpkin.

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesThe Redskins sacked Jay Cutler four times to match his four interceptions.

Asked about Cutler's comments regarding Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall last Sunday -- that he would throw in Hall's direction again after Hall snared all four of Cutler's picks -- Rodney Harrison unleashed an assessment that went well past the quarterback as merely a football player.

"His mindset shouldn't be on 'Well, this is what I should have done or this is what I could do if I played him again,' " Harrison said Wednesday on the "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "The fact is you absolutely killed your team. You've been killing your team the entire year by making [errant] passes over and over again, so show some maturity, grow up ... just put it on your back and show some leadership. Show some maturity and say, 'I can't turn the ball over.' ...

"But this is still Jay Cutler. That's why they got rid of him in Denver, a guy that hides behind his cockiness, his arrogance, and that's why he continues to play like this. The guy has all the talent in the world, but until he matures and grows up, he's going to continue to make these stupid mistakes."

Last season he caught flak for his facial expressions and his body language. NFL Network's Deion Sanders criticized Cutler after his five-interception game against San Francisco for bending down and pulling up his sock after one of them.

But when Cutler glares at his receivers as he did Sunday, makes comments about Hall like he did after the game and answers a question about where the Bears start to address the problems they have on offense by replying with "That's a pretty negative question," he is going to take some heat.

And when his team loses, and looks horrendous doing it, he's going to take more.

"I don't know if that's good or bad," he said when asked what he made of the fact that he has drawn so much scrutiny in his career. "The quarterback of every franchise is going to be scrutinized and weighed in [on] and everyone's going to have an opinion. That's just the world we live in right now with the media access and how things happen so quickly. Everyone is going to have an opinion."

Cutler The quarterback of every franchise is going to be scrutinized and weighed in [on] and everyone's going to have an opinion. That's just the world we live in right now with the media access and how things happen so quickly. Everyone is going to have an opinion.

-- Bears QB Jay Cutler

He's right, and when you sign a $48 million contract with a team that gives up two future first-round draft picks, one third-rounder and a serviceable starting quarterback in return, those opinions are going to be harsh. That'll happen when that team does not back you up with a line that can protect you or receivers that can perform at a consistently elite level, and gives you two different offensive coordinators in your first two seasons.

But Cutler is obstinate. He says he never listens to what outsiders are saying, understandable perhaps when it's Hall responding as he did the other day by saying Cutler "doesn't understand the game of football," but not so much when it's Tony Dungy talking about mechanics or Steve Young talking about maturity.

"I don't listen to anything," Cutler said. "I listen to what's happening inside our building. There are so many distractions out there. We just have to kind of hold ourselves up and just concentrate on what we're doing and listen to our coaches and our players and go from there."

The options are unfortunate. And if the Bears ever turn it around under his direction, I can see Cutler serving as the perfect martyr, a guy local fans would latch onto and love, pretending they loved him all along.

It could make a guy paranoid if he let it. But Cutler does have a few supporters.

Jamie Dukes, a former NFL offensive lineman and now NFL Network host, and a bit of a voice in the wilderness, is adamant that Cutler is the victim of his personality and an inferior team.

"Just like Philip Rivers, and this isn't derogatory toward Rivers, you get a reputation for being smarmy and aloof, but that's OK. I don't need him to be my best friend. But you have to at least give him a chance and all that personal baggage outweighs the facts," Dukes said.

"The bottom line is they have the worst offensive line in football. They can't run block or pass block. And the receivers ... I was irate watching Johnny Knox get pushed around like a little girl by DeAngelo Hall. He should be embarrassed to watch Hall outfight him.

"The red zone, that's Jay. And throwing off his back foot, Jay. But from his perspective, he has to be frustrated because he's saying, 'I have a coordinator whose system calls for me to throw the ball to these spots and I have these knucklehead receivers who freelance.'

"To me Cutler is the least of the Bears' worries. He's not even close to being a worry."

If Cutler is frustrated, surely he is not going to tell us. And according to one of his former detractors, Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz, he doesn't need to.

Last year, after Cutler's four-interception game in the season-opening loss to the Green Bay Packers, Martz, then an NFL Network analyst, said "he just doesn't get it."

Wednesday, Martz was asked if his quarterback's confidence is a concern.

"If you know Jay, then you'd know not to ask that question," Martz said. "He's a strong man, and he's very, very strong emotionally and likes what we do and is confident."

Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.

Melissa Isaacson

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for espnW.com, ESPN Chicago and ESPN.com. The award-winning writer has covered Chicago sports for most of her 31-year career, including at the Chicago Tribune before joining ESPN in 2009. Isaacson has also covered tennis since 1986.

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