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Cutler saga much ado about very little

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



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 difference, of course, is that social media have 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 ignoramus in America. Even Brian Urlacher questioned 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 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’d better get used to it because Twitter and Facebook will be harder to get rid of than Lovie Smith and Jerry Angelo.

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 won their way into just as many Super Bowls as the Packers? In fact, the Packers — one of the most respected and well-run organizations in professional sports — just caught the ever-dysfunctional Bears in both categories three days ago.

This episode isn’t going to do anything to Cutler. He’s going to be good or bad next season 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 Cutler 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 such as current and former players and not just the hated media and disbelievers. That can only help their cause.

In fact, the Cutler saga might have been the best thing to happen to the Bears. It deflected attention 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 in 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 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 season?

‘‘Great coaching,’’ Bears linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa said. ‘‘When you’re familiar with an opponent, you know how to attack them after a while. 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.



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