Cutler vows to play better
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Just for the record, Jay Cutler didn't like it either.
On the run and out of sync, he looked like anything but a franchise savior when he threw a career-high four interceptions in the Chicago Bears' 21-15 loss at Green Bay in the season opener. But he vowed to do better after his debut dud.
That won't be easy when the Pittburgh Steelers visit this week. Even with Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu out with a sprained left knee, the defending Super Bowl champions still have plenty of playmakers on defense, meaning Cutler could be in for another long day.
Then again, things can't possibly be as bad as last week. Can they?
"It's not going to keep me down," said Cutler, who was 17-of-36 for 277 yards with a touchdown. "It really isn't."
Cutler took plenty of hits for what he did during the game, and he absorbed a few more for his performance after it. His postgame demeanor rubbed Mike Martz and Jim Mora Sr. the wrong way, and they blasted the quarterback this week during the NFL Network's "The Head Coaches" show, questioning his maturity just as Mike Ditka and Tony Dungy did during the offseason.
Martz, who coached the St. Louis Rams, said, "He just doesn't get it. He doesn't understand that he represents a great head coach and the rest of those players on that team. Somebody needs to talk to him."
Cutler simply shrugged off the criticism, saying he heard about it but "I can't worry about it." Bears coach Lovie Smith and offensive coordinator Ron Turner, however, rushed to his defense.
Smith said the criticism was disappointing coming from two former coaches and added: "Right now, it's easy to dogpaddle us because we didn't play well."
Turner said: "The reality is he's a great leader. The reality is we could not be happier with Jay Cutler. We could not be happier with his demeanor, with his leadership, with his intangibles, with his work ethic, with what he brings to this team."
Cutler certainly wasn't praising his performance after the game, but he didn't shoulder the blame, either -- and there was plenty to go around. A retooled offensive line got overpowered, the running game never got going and two of the interceptions could be pinned on the receivers.
In other words, it was a meltdown by an offense that is expected to be better now that a Pro Bowl quarterback is behind center, and although Cutler's answers afterward were a little short, there was nothing unusual about his demeanor. Fair or not, though, he simply can't avoid questions about his attitude.
They have followed him from Denver, where his well-publicized falling out with new Broncos coach Josh McDaniels led to the blockbuster trade in the offseason, and he has hit some bumps while settling into his new surroundings.
He and Brian Urlacher found themselves denying reports of a rift when they reported to training camp. Cutler also offended Devin Hester with comments he made after the first preseason game about the receiver's failure to break up an interception against the Buffalo Bills.
"I don't know what the perception is, but the reality of it is he's great," tight end Greg Olsen said. "He's like any other elite quarterback that you would have. He has a lot of confidence in himself and what we're trying to do. He holds himself to a high standard, but during the games, he's calm. He's very under control."
What's notable about the criticism is that three of the four former coaches weren't exactly known for their professional demeanor in press conferences, with Dungy being the exception. Mora, who delivered the legendary "Playoffs?! Don't talk about playoffs!" rant when he coached the Colts, even joked about his reputation on the show, calling himself "an authority on these types of things" and offering to give Cutler some tips on how to handle himself.
Also, the criticism has come from two mentors of Smith, who worked for Dungy in Tampa Bay and Martz in St. Louis. Martz, in fact, pushed for Smith to get the Chicago job in 2004.
"We don't have a lot of time to worry about what's been said on the outside," Smith said.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
NFL WEEK 2 PREVIEW