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updated: 1/27/2011 8:42 AM

No merit at all to criticism of Cutler

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  • Simply put, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler would have finished Sunday's game against the Packers if he was physically able.

      Simply put, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler would have finished Sunday's game against the Packers if he was physically able.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer


Anyone still harping on Jay Cutler's lack of toughness just doesn't get it or has never experienced a similar injury.

If Cutler could have finished Sunday's NFC championship game, he would have. Maybe he would have been more effective balancing on one foot in the shotgun than healthy backup Todd Collins was, but that isn't the point.

And regardless of the results of his Tuesday MRI, Collins will not play for the Bears again.

Cutler's injury will not require surgery, but the partial tear of the MCL (medial collateral ligament) in his left knee made quick movements, especially laterally, impossible.

Behind the Bears' offensive line and in the face of the Green Bay pass rush, that would have made him a sitting duck. Take away Cutler's mobility, and the Bears never even sniff the playoffs.

So criticize Cutler for not being more demonstrative in rooting for his team or more helpful to third-string quarterback Caleb Hanie if you want.

That's totally justified, although it's debatable how much sideline wisdom Cutler could have imparted in the few frantic moments down the stretch. The Packers' last two possessions used up just 2:22 of clock time.

But don't say Cutler quit. Really, if there's one thing everyone who watches the Bears should know by now, it's that Cutler doesn't lack for toughness, physically or mentally.

He displayed it all season while being sacked a league-high 52 times and 5 more in the postseason.

Including the 2009 season, Cutler has been sacked 92 times as a Bear, and he has missed just one start, after suffering a concussion against the New York Giants this season.

That's the only start Cutler has ever missed because of an injury. He also runs much more than most quarterbacks and shows little regard for his own safety when he does, often taking on tacklers instead of sliding to protect himself.

He played lousy in the first half Sunday; there's no way to spin that into anything but a poor performance.

But the Packers' defense makes a lot of quarterbacks look bad. And, if you look at the numbers, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers played poorly as well.

Cutler still isn't anywhere near the upper echelon of quarterbacks such as Rodgers, Tom Brady, Phillip Rivers, Drew Brees or Peyton Manning.

But he is capable of getting to that level because of his physical skills and intelligence, something most other quarterbacks in the league cannot say.

It doesn't matter if he appears aloof, arrogant or disinterested.

What matters is that he has the backing of the Bears' locker room, coaching staff and front office -- and he does. What kind of person he is really doesn't matter.

Anyone who thinks Jim McMahon was a good guy off the field never met him. But he led the Bears to their only Super Bowl victory.

Cutler has taken flak for his facial expressions. But what does that have to do with his performance?

Bears general manager Jerry Angelo had it right when he was asked about Cutler's demeanor after he was injured.

"You get respect and credibility by one thing in this league -- winning," Angelo said. "It's not about whether I like him or don't like him or if he'd be a good neighbor or not a good neighbor. It's not about being a nice guy. I could care less about a nice guy.

"There are probably some old quarterbacks in the past, that if we had you as a media, we would have probably heard some things about them and we wouldn't have thought they were nice guys.

"But they wound up in Canton. It's about performance, and we wouldn't have gotten to where we had gotten this year without (Cutler). We're very confident he's going to take us to that next level."

That same detached air and cavalier appearance that critics have blasted Cutler for is exactly what will serve him well in dealing with the current situation and the scrutiny that is sure to follow him for as long as he is the quarterback of the Chicago Bears.

This is not the place for a sensitive, emotional player. Warm and fuzzy won't get it done.

"I've always said this town is tough on quarterbacks," Angelo said. "If you don't have thick skin, this is not the town to be in.

"That's why I personally wanted to trade for a veteran quarterback, somebody who earned their stripes here in the league, and who was used to the fishbowl at that quarterback position.

"I think Jay handles what comes with the territory very well."

•Follow Bob LeGere's Bears reports via Twitter@BobLeGere. Check out his blog, Bear Essentials at