An injured Jay Cutler sits and watches the Bears lose to the Packers in the NFC Championship Game.
The vicious reaction to Jay Cutler’s performance against the Packers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday was no worse than any other similar event in the last 30 years of professional football. Rex Grossman and Cade McNown got it just as bad or worse.
The only difference, of course, is that social media has turned our entire world into one big tavern on game day. Everybody knows what everybody’s thinking. It’s like open-mike night for every ingnoramus in America. Even Brian Urlacher questioned Jay Cutler’s manhood while watching a Bears game when the linebacker was rehabilitating an injury last year.
Once upon a time, 99 percent of the conversation about Jay Cutler on Sunday and Monday would have stayed inside Joe’s Tavern, or your living room. The letters-to-the-editor (do those even exist anymore?) would have gotten thrown in the garbage. The voice-mails deleted. Now there’s nothing any of us can do to prevent it from becoming a part of America’s 24-hour national conversation with itself.
It might have been a shock to our system this time. But we better get used to it, because Twitter and Facebook will be harder to get rid of than Lovie Smith and Jerry Angelo, which itself is like trying to knock down all the milk bottles at a carnival arcade.
It’s not a matter of managing it. It’s a matter of putting it in its proper perspective and refusing to overreact to the overreaction. That’s not the Bears’ job. That’s ours.
Speaking of the overreaction to the overreaction, haven’t we learned by now that the Bears are immune to public relations disasters? That it doesn’t matter how they mishandle any threat to their image? Did you know that since botching the hiring of Dave McGinnis in 1999 the Bears have played in just as many NFC Championship Games and just as many Super Bowls as the Packers? In fact, the Packers — one of the most respected and most well-run organizations in all of professional sports — just caught up to the ever-dysfunctional Bears in both categories two days ago.
The Bears just played for the NFC Championship when most Bears fans thought they’d be lucky to finish 8-8 and maybe 25 percent of them were rooting for the team to lose so Lovie Smith would get fired — and Jay Cutler is going to be bad next year because people think he’s a [deleted]? The Bears are going to be bad because people don’t trust them, don’t respect them or don’t like them?
Didn’t this season just debunk that notion? But that was part of the response to the Cutler saga, that the Bears desperately needed to manage this situation and ‘‘win’’ the public image battle in Smith and Angelo’s press conferences Monday.
This episode isn’t going to do anything to Jay Cutler. He’s going to be good or bad next year on his own — or with the help of his offensive teammates. That he’s immune to public perception is the root of the whole thing, isn’t it? That the reaction was so intense because Jay has a bad public image?
Let’s not forget the order of events Sunday: Cutler was bad first, then he was castigated by the masses.
If anything, it will mobilize Cutler’s teammates to rally around him like never before and prove the damn critics wrong, which is one of the few things the Bears do better than any team in the NFL. The only difference is that their targets include a segment of the NFL establishment like current and former players and not just the hated media and disbelievers. That can only help their cause.
As a matter of fact, the Cutler saga might have been the best thing to happen to the Bears. It deflected attention away from some pretty serious flaws that were exposed in the NFC Championship game and put the day-after focus on an issue that won’t make one bit of difference in their 2011 season.
The flaws? How about so clearly getting outcoached against their division rival in the biggest game of the season? The Bears were outplayed on all three phases Sunday — including special teams. And while they were in it until the end, they didn’t start initiating anything on offense or defense until they were down 14-0 — the Packers’ penchant for taking their foot off the gas played a role in the Bears’ comeback. Their best drive came after B.J. Raji’s interception return for a touchdown gave the Packers a 21-7 lead.
And you can’t ignore the fact that Cutler was unable to lift his team even a little bit when the going was tough at the outset. Is that not part of his job description, to raise his level of play in that situation?
And how about the most overlooked, and disturbing, statistic of the game — the Packers rushed for 119 yards on their first 26 carries (4.6 yards per carry), with six rushes for 10 or more yards. How did that happen in the biggest game of the year?
‘‘Great coaching,’’ Bears linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa said. ‘‘When you’re familiar with an opponent, you know how to attack them after awhile. They knew what we were going to do. We come downhill and play hard defensively. So when we were doing that they were throwing the ball over our heads.
‘‘So then we’re like, ‘We can’t come downhill as fast, because. then they’re going to throw it over our heads. But then they were running it. That’s why I give credit to Aaron Rodgers and the coaching, because they knew us. They did a good job of attacking us and keeping us off-balance.’’
No further questions.