It’s Cutler’s decision-making that needs an adjustment, not his attitude
BY RICK MORRISSEY Sports Columnist September 5, 2013 8:31PM
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Updated: October 7, 2013 1:28PM
It might be better if you sit down for this.
On Thursday, Jay Cutler prefaced his answer to a reporter’s question with, “Good point.’’ This was groundbreaking stuff in that he generally sees the media as pointless. I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn here, though it’s possible Jay has a profound love of reporters he has been hiding lo these many years.
Cutler was gracious at his weekly press gathering at Halas Hall, and I know what Bears fans are thinking: This can only be good news. For as long as he has been in Chicago, people have wanted him to change. Stop sulking, they’ve told him. Stop throwing off your back foot. Stop making bad decisions. Smile more.
Let’s not be hasty.
I look at this a little differently than most, the way a selfish columnist would, which is to say that I look at Cutler as just about the greatest thing ever. He is the fit of pique that just keeps giving. The frowns, the outbursts at teammates, the lack of eye contact in news conferences . . . you couldn’t make this guy up. And married to his polar opposite, reality star Kristin Cavallari? Oh, those crazy, wonderful kids at Match.com!
I would like to see Cutler win a championship and continue to be his fiery, difficult self. I don’t necessarily think those two things are mutually exclusive, though the evidence from his seven-year career does seem to be leaning in the direction of “they absolutely are mutually exclusive.’’
But it worries me when new coach Marc Trestman describes Cutler as being “even-keeled’’ during training camp, as he did Thursday. This is not good for anybody, but specifically not good for me.
The Bears open their season Sunday at home against the Bengals, and it would not be an overstatement to say that everything is riding on Cutler’s shoulders, which already sport humongous chips. He needs to be good for the Bears to be good. With his contract up after this season, he needs to be good or he’s as good as gone.
He has had his share of dust-ups in the past, though the one that received the most attention last season came when he screamed at and bumped tackle J’Marcus Webb for the sin of playing like J’Marcus Webb during a game against the Packers.
The Webb bump was good for about three columns last season.
Trestman, a calm sort, doesn’t seem worried about Jay’s bristly side, which resembles a porcupine under attack.
“The thing with our players — and I’ve said it to them — we know they’re working hard,’’ he said. “We know they’re committed to the game. We know that. I think his demeanor, because he’s the quarterback, is critically important.
“I think there are going to be moments like that. I think that’s just part of who he is. I’m not going to take that away from him. From my standpoint, I don’t think you’re going to see somebody firing back. I’m going to let him wear himself out, get it off his chest, go back and play the next play.
“I know when a player gets that way, that’s not really who he is.’’
Actually, that really is who Cutler is, but, again, this could be the needy columnist in me talking.
If Trestman’s ability to put together a game plan is as good as advertised, then Cutler needs to get his decision-making skills, not his temper, under control. If tackle Jermon Bushrod and tight end Martellus Bennett are as good as they have been in the past, then Cutler doesn’t need to be a risk-taker.
But it sure would be a lot less fun to watch if he goes all robotic on us. Or worse, if he gets perky.
Lots of people would like to soften his harder edges. Lots of people would like him to be nice, approachable, engaging and kind to strangers. But that’s not him. He’s the guy with the black hat, which is perfectly OK in Chicago as long as he wins. Jim McMahon came to town with a beer and an unpleasant attitude that was charming because the Bears won.
The only right way for this to end is on Cutler’s terms, whatever they may be, but involving scorched earth in some way. Not with a personality change, but with the same old Jay doing his thing. With a snarl on his face.