When I was a sophomore in high school, I played football for the Southwest Raiders in Fort Worth, Texas.
Now I wasn’t the best on the team, but I knew the game. I knew the plays, how to properly execute them and what my role was on the team.
I knew the guys on my team. I knew what they were capable of; their weaknesses and their strengths alike. When a guy wasn’t giving his all, I could tell. I could also tell when a teammate had just spilled his guts to get every last yard he could.
We lost a lot my first year. As a matter of fact, we lost all but one game. But we never quit even though some of our fans thought we did. Every week we practiced, our team believed we had a legitimate chance to win. But the final score would always prove otherwise.
And after some of those tough defeats I would often hear from friends and critics of the team that I, along with others, should quit. They suggested that we were wasting our time playing for a team with no chance to do anything.
However, they didn’t understand the heart, fire and determination I saw in each of my teammates. When we lost, we lost together. When we won, however rare that was, we won together. We scratched and clawed for every yard every minute of the game. We did it together—we did it all together.
The one thing we never did was quit. I knew my teammates and they, no matter the circumstances, would ever quit. We defended one another from the criticism; rallied around one another when booed. We were a team and no outsiders would effect our commitment to each other.
During the NFC Championship Game, Bears QB Jay Cutler came out of the game in the second quarter with an injury. No one knew what it was at the time, but the critics were prepping their attacks as they watched Cutler disappear into the tunnel before halftime.
We all watched Cutler struggle with passes as the second half got under way. And after a few plays, he was subbed out for an ineffective Todd Collins.
As he sat on the bench being examined by the Bears’ medical staff, viewers were wondering what the hell was going on? And then in came the third QB and Cutler was excoriated via the Twitterverse.
He was called a coward, quitter, loser and worst of all, Urban Meyer. Fans were reportedly burning his jersey outside the stadium. Others were storming out of the local drinking establishments cursing his name and the Bears for bringing him in to begin with. He was the worse of the worse; the lowest of the low. I’m sure a few inebriated fans were already adding Caleb Hainey to next year’s fantasy roster as they were sure he would succeed Cutler as the Bears next great QB.
Now I can’t fault the players who criticized him. After all, they subject themselves to the massive trauma that is football every Sunday for our entertainment. In my opinion they earn every dollar the make because more than likely, I will outlive most of them or at the least will out walk them.
The players have every right to say whatever it is they want. They deal with injuries and have a pain threshold I could only imagine. They deal with muscle and ligament tears, broken bones and head injuries. They can say what they want, I just hope they can stick to the criticisms they level at the man.
But what I cannot stand is the second-guessing by media and fans that have never laced up a cleat or put on a helmet or shoulder pad. I cannot tolerate the beating Cutler has taken by media types who have never taken a blindside hit and their only claim to fame is riding on an athletes coattails or stalking them around like TMZ waiting for a major story to break. Or by fans whose only connection to their favorite athlete is how much merchandise they have purchased therefore they expect a player to owe them something.
He did give you something. He gave it to you all season. He stood behind a shoddy offensive line and took hit after hit. He had to figure out Mike Martz crazy-assed offense that had no primary receiver and excluded an all-pro tight end for most of the season. He took criticism from a media that is probably the third worse behind Philly and New York.
And what people still haven’t realized is the man is the best QB the organization has had since the unimpressive Erik Kramer. Before that it was Sid Luckman, and that was in the 40s.
So to question his heart is not only ignorant, it is stupid and shows just how overly entitled the Bears’ fans are. They think they are supposed to win every year yet they don’t put the pieces in place to win. When they had a running game, they sent Thomas Jones to the Jets. When they had Muhsin Muhammad, they had no quarterback. When they finally put a respectable defense on the field, they had a suspect offense led by a mental midget in Rex Grossman. They are a mess, yet the critics want to blame Cutler for losing the championship game.
The Bears organization did right by coming to Cutler’s defense because he deserved that. They know his pain tolerance, we don’t. They know when he plays hurt and the level in which he does, we don’t. The know how hard he works in practice whereas we only get snapshots from the media in the 10-15 minutes allowed to observe practice and then we over analyze and scrutinize the reports we receive in the press conferences.
We don’t know anything. Yet to act like judge, jury and executioner is pathetic. We need to see the aesthetics in order to prove someone is really on the verge of a catastrophic injury. We cannot take the word of the coach or medical staff. It’s impossible for us to believe that someone would be hurt in the “biggest” game of their life. There has to be a conspiracy somewhere. That’s the only explanation, right?
Wrong. What it all boils down to is jealousy. Fans and critics can’t wait to destroy a guy who makes more money, gets all the girls and goes to all the fancy parties. Because secretly, that’s what we all want even though we won’t admit it. And when a player doesn’t live up to what you expect, he’s a bum or trash or worse, Urban Meyer.
I believe Cutler until proven otherwise, and even then I still won’t care. But think about this if you do criticize him: the next time you have the flu or a sprained ankle or a broken leg and the doctor recommends rest and relaxation along with a note excusing you from work, tell him to give you some fluids, tape you up, get a cane and take your ass to work.
Otherwise you just quit on your co-workers.