For stars Cutler and Romo, there’s little tolerance for failure
BY JOE COWLEY firstname.lastname@example.org September 26, 2012 10:02PM
Despite constant pressure from the Lions, Jay Cutler had one of his best games as a Bear. Click through the gallery for 10 more observations on the Bears.
CUTLER VS. ROMO
Cutler: Left NFC title game with injury
Romo: Botched hold on a FG that would have won game
Famous women dated
Cutler: Kristin Cavallari
Romo: Jessica Simpson, Carrie Underwood, Candice Crawford (now his wife)
Updated: October 29, 2012 6:41AM
Jason Campbell isn’t sure when, exactly, it turned for him.
‘‘Only that it turns quickly,’’ he said with a grin.
Campbell, the Bears’ backup quarterback, went from the ‘‘it’’ QB in Washington to ‘‘We’ll help you pack your bags’’ — almost overnight.
‘‘You’re just left feeling that there is nothing you can do about it,’’ he recalled Wednesday. ‘‘When it comes to being quarterback in the National Football League, there’s only 32 of those jobs. With that comes a ton of scrutiny. This is just the world we live in.’’
It’s a world that Bears starter Jay Cutler and Dallas Cowboys starter Tony Romo know all too well. Those two will share the stage in Dallas on Monday night, but they’ll also share the bull’s-eyes on their jerseys.
The labels are there:
Can’t win the big game.
Franchise quarterback but not elite.
Not accountable enough.
And, maybe the biggest slap in their cover-boy faces as far as locker room talk is concerned: To steal the term from the Bulls’ Joakim Noah, ‘‘Hollywood as hell.’’
That could be the most damaging.
Cutler and Romo aren’t just quarterbacks searching for a championship — they’re TMZ material. And for a star athlete with no rings, the scrutiny Campbell spoke about can go from glaring to downright flammable.
‘‘It puts it on an entirely different level,’’ said Campbell, who stayed away from being an ‘‘Entertainment Tonight’’ report in his five seasons with the Redskins before they traded him to the Oakland Raiders in 2010. ‘‘I don’t think Jay or Tony went looking for that. They try to keep their lives as private as possible. But all it takes is that one time, that one picture to show up on TV, that one snapshot.’’
When a quarterback is avoiding the paparazzi more than he’s avoiding a zone blitz, he has walked through a new door. Failure is amplified. It leads to deeper questions about dedication, toughness and motivation — questions that have been thrown at Cutler and Romo over the years, not just by fans but by their peers.
San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has had as many playoff failures as Cutler and Romo, yet he is hardly questioned in the court of public opinion. But Rivers never dated Jessica Simpson, Carrie Underwood or Kristin Cavallari.
Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Matt Schaub and Carson Palmer have fallen on their faces in the playoffs — some multiple times — or been unable to answer the bell because of injury. The scrutiny directed at them is nowhere near what Cutler and Romo undergo on a weekly basis.
‘‘It might be a combination of things,’’ Bears cornerback D.J. Moore said. ‘‘For Jay, it might be combined with the reactions that still seem to be out there about the Green Bay [NFC Championship Game]. There are some people that refuse to forget that. Then the other stuff adds on to it.
‘‘This is a quarterback league, and all eyes are on the quarterback. They know that.’’
They also know life as a quarterback isn’t always fair.
‘‘Anytime you have two people that are successful, whether it’s TV, business or the NFL, it’s going to draw that extra attention, extra scrutiny,’’ Campbell said. ‘‘It’s something that sells. People want to write about it, hear everything about it.
‘‘For them, I mean, that’s someone that they love. That’s their life. They would like it to be private, but you find it hard to protect that.’’
No quarterback is considered as ‘‘Hollywood’’ as the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady, who has a child with actress Bridget Moynahan and married supermodel Gisele Bündchen, but three Super Bowl rings carry weight. Who cares that the poster boy for Ugg hasn’t won a significant game since 2004?
‘‘Unless you win, you are going to be scrutinized in markets like this,’’ Campbell said. ‘‘The best thing to do is keep a thick skin, keep your head straight forward. You have to block out a lot of things and keep looking forward. No one said it would be easy.’’
So does Monday even matter for Cutler and Romo? In the standings, yes. As far as reputations, nothing changes. Not yet.
‘‘It’s crazy how things work, isn’t it?’’ Moore said. ‘‘I do know this: It all comes down to performing. If Jay just performs like he’s capable of performing, he’ll be fine. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s the better you perform, the better they talk about you.’’