If Cutler ever reaches Super Bowl, he might need new media playbook
SEAN JENSEN AT THE SUPER BOWL February 2, 2011 12:10AM
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler probably would prefer to answer questions that relate to football only. | AP
Updated: May 7, 2011 5:43AM
ARLINGTON, Texas — The blitz was on, and the quarterback gracefully sidestepped everything coming his way.
Whether he preferred the derriere of Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian or Beyonce. When he lost his virginity. And if he could throw a dressed up football that was supposed to look like an “offensive tassle.”
It was Super Bowl Media Day on Tuesday, an annual event that’s like Mardi Gras on the sidelines of an NFL stadium, where 3,000 “reporters” have license to pepper 100-plus football players with inane and sometimes insane questions.
But Rodgers had a simple goal.
“I’m just trying to get through this 60 minutes without saying anything stupid,” he said.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was one victory away sitting in Rodgers’ seat, and it’s hard not to imagine how he would have handled it all.
Someone surely would have charted the number of times he rolled his eyes, slumped his shoulders and offered one-word answers to wacky questions.
“He gets disgusted at certain questions that don’t focus on football,” said former Bears quarterback Jim Miller, now an analyst for CSN Chicago and Sirius NFL Radio. “That’s where you get the worst out of Jay Cutler.
“He wants good hard questions that relate to football, not anything outside the lines.”
But, at least on Media Day, absurdity is expected, and Cutler would have attracted a colossal crowd. He would have been queried about his girlfriend, actress Kristin Cavallari, his breakup with the Denver Broncos and how he handles Type I diabetes.
And those are the easy ones.
Surely, somebody would have dressed up as Santa Claus and asked him about his hometown. And somebody else would offend him, just like they did Rodgers and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Everything is heightened, of course, during Super Bowl week, yet there’s always an undeniable expectation thrust upon a quarterback, fair or not, and Cutler’s reticence and resistance seems to harm him more than it helps.
NFL Network analyst Brian Billick said Cutler would help himself greatly by being more savvy about dealing with the media and paying attention to his image.
“Now I like Jay Cutler. I think he’s a good young man, and he’s quite a talent,” said Billick, who led the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl victory. “But his life would become a lot easier if he could learn to deal with his circumstance better than he does.
“That’s not fair, it’s not right. . . . The football purist will say, ‘No, that doesn’t matter.’ Yeah, it does.”
Roethlisberger changed his approach with his local media. In his first few seasons, he would only speak for five to 10 minutes on Wednesdays and after games. At one point, though, he would conduct conference calls with reporters from the opposing media markets on Wednesday then address Pittsburgh reporters a day later.
But Roethlisberger vowed to be more cooperative with local reporters heading into this season, making himself available outside of the standard news conference days, and he was given the “Chief Award,” by Pittsburgh media for his efforts.
Rodgers said he’s sometimes uncomfortable with the added attention on him.
“[But] it’s part of the job. It’s a responsibility,” he said. “It’s the way I get my message out, although I don’t have the right messages all the time.
“I still get them out, one way or another.”
Rodgers then talked about the expectations of being the Packers starting quarterback.
‘‘There’s a responsibility to be a high-character citizen,” he said. “It’s a privilege to play in this league but also play in Green Bay, where our team is so revered, and it’s important to present ourselves in a way that not only reflects well on ourselves and our family but also on the Green Bay Packers.”
Like Rodgers, Cutler quietly contributes to the community. In December, the Sun-Times shadowed him on an unpublicized visit to a hospital, where he handed out Christmas gifts to dozens of sick children. He’s avoided embarrassing off-the-field incidents, and his teammates and coaches — to a man — vouch for his toughness and devotion to the team.
But, as Steelers backup quarterback Byron Leftwich pointed out, the spotlight on a franchise quarterback has changed. The seventh overall pick in the 2003 NFL draft, Leftwich was the face of the Jacksonville Jaguars until he was replaced after the 2006 season by David Garrard.
Now Leftwich said he relishes his role as Roethlisberger’s backup.
“That’s the best part of my situation, to be honest with you. You don’t have to do all those interviews and those things. You just get to be a football player,” Leftwich said. “At one point, they used to call me a franchise quarterback, and the obligations that you have are sometimes overwhelming.”