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MORRISSEY: Hey, Jay Cutler: Make this personal

The pressure Jay Cutler is enormous especially considering whhappened 2011 NFC Championship Game.  | Matt Rourke/AP

The pressure on Jay Cutler is enormous, especially considering what happened in the 2011 NFC Championship Game.  | Matt Rourke/AP

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Updated: January 30, 2014 6:32AM



Sunday’s Bears-Packers game is not about whether Jay Cutler gets a multiyear contract from his current employers. I happen to believe he’s getting one regardless of the outcome against the Packers, but no matter how the issue plays out, it’s peripheral stuff.

This is about the measure of him. It’s about his depth, his reputation, maybe his legacy.

This is the game that could decide how Chicago forever looks upon Cutler ­— either as the guy who lifted his performance when his team most needed him or the guy who tossed more bad interceptions atop the bonfire of bad interceptions he has thrown against the Packers.

All this from a regular-season game?

All this from a regular-season game.

The winning team goes to the playoffs, but this is about Cutler and Aaron Rodgers, no matter how much Cutler protests.

This is about a 30-year-old Bears quarterback with loads of talent and spotty results vs. a 30-year-old Packers quarterback with loads of talent and success.

Sorry, Jay, that’s the reality of the situation. You say Cutler-Rodgers shouldn’t be personal. It absolutely should be personal to you.

This has the chance to be one of those career-defining days for Cutler. He spent his Thursday news conference trying to avoid the burden of it. He should embrace it. The great ones do.

He is correct when he says any success the Bears’ offense has is about all 11 players on the field. But when Rodgers goes into the Hall of Fame, it won’t be about his offensive line or his wide receivers, though those players certainly will have played a role. His numbers, not his teammates, will be listed in Canton. That’s how it goes.

Cutler needs to put up Rodgers-like numbers Sunday, not just to win the game but to show that he can be great when it matters. His numbers as a Bear against the Packers have been brutal: a 1-8 record, a 54.6 completion percentage and a passer rating of 59.9.

There’s no getting around the way Josh McCown played while Cutler was out with groin and ankle injuries this season, and the backup’s success has ratcheted up the pressure on Cutler. He no longer can be so cavalier about his standing with the Bears. McCown showed that taking care of the football and making smart decisions can go a long way in Marc Trestman’s offense.

But a standout performance by Cutler in a Bears victory Sunday will make some of the McCown-fueled heat go away. I’m sure it still bothers Cutler that his five missed starts this season spawned a discussion about how little the team needed him rather than how much it missed him.

Well, do something about it, Jay.

That Cutler can be a monumental pain in the butt has played a huge role in where he finds himself today, somewhere near the bottom of the list in terms in likability in Chicago. Again, he can cut off some of that talk with a good game against the Packers. It really is all up to him.

The last time Cutler played in this important a game against the Packers, he left the 2011 NFC Championship Game with a torn medial collateral ligament in his knee and had to fight off accusations that he wasn’t tough enough. Those accusations weren’t fair, but they dogged him nonetheless.

This time, he’s facing a quarterback who likely will carry some rust onto the field. Rodgers missed the last seven games with a broken left collarbone. Advantage, Bears? It’d be silly to think so. Don’t you expect that Rodgers will be ready, that he has been studying for this like a law-school grad studying for the bar? I do.

There’s no real pressure on him. There’s about a million pounds per square inch of it on Cutler.

There are so many elements to Sunday’s game, but I don’t think Cutler’s contract situation is one of them. The raging debate around town would suggest that everyone disagrees with me. Yet the Bears have so many problems to address on defense that disrupting the offense for the next two years seems self-destructive. It makes more sense for them to sign Cutler. A city weeps.

The Packers became the favorites against their archrivals when they announced Thursday that Rodgers would play. In fact, his return meant a seven-point swing in the betting line. That’s respect. Cutler doesn’t get that kind of respect. He probably thinks he deserves it.

Well, do something about it, Jay.



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