Funny how Cutler hardly gets a break

October 24, 2012|By Jack M Silverstein | For RedEye

"If people could see him not just when the cameras are on, yeah, you'd see a different side of him."

That quote from Gabe Carimi came in late September after the loss to the Packers. I was gathering material for a column on what "Happy Jay Cutler" looked like, and Bear after Bear told me Cutler is absolutely a happy, jokey, light-hearted guy—just not always on the field, and not always with the media.

Carimi's quote has been in my head for the past month, and during my time around the Bears I've begun to see Cutler's jokey side. During practice one day, with Jason Campbell throwing to him, Kellen Davis slipped on the turf while running a pass route. He briefly caught his balance, but slipped again, and when he looked up the ball bounced off his helmet.

This was fodder for laughter from Cutler and the receivers. Cutler led the antics by making a shotgun gesture with his hands, "pointing" it at Davis, and yelling "boom!" as his teammates laughed. Davis sheepishly ran back to the line, and when it was his turn to run another pattern, Cutler jokingly ran side by side with him like a defender, yelling "Whoa! Here it comes! Here it comes!"

So why don't most Bears fans give Cutler the benefit of the doubt? It's a complicated answer, but I think it comes from two places:

1) Chicago does not know how to treat quarterbacks. We love our running backs and linebackers, and we view QBs as facilitators tasked with keeping the ship afloat. As excited as Bears fans were upon Cutler's arrival in 2009, I think there was also a feeling that a big-name QB sucks attention away from Forte and Urlacher, the "rightful recipients" of our love.

2) We bought into the image of "the petulant, argumentative Jay Cutler" without knowing the man, and have run with it since.

It's hard not to notice the hypocrisy in fans and media skewering Cutler for the J'Marcus Webb bump while saying nothing when, during the game against Jacksonville, the TV cameras caught a smiling Cutler patting the heads of his offensive linemen on the sideline. Or the hypocrisy in ripping Cutler for his "lack of toughness" during the NFC championship game without praising his ability to endure 129 sacks in 47 games.

I thought of all this when I saw Ndamukong Suh wedge his forearm between Cutler's shoulder and chin and slam him to the Soldier Field turf. The Bears' "grouchy," "soft" QB had just received one of the most vicious hits I've ever seen in football. How would the crowd react?

Thankfully, the Soldier Field fans gave Cutler a salute long overdue. They were hushed when he went down, cheered when he got up, clapped for him when he went to the locker room and rallied behind him when he took the field again in the second half.

On a night when both the running back and the middle linebacker played outstanding football, the biggest cheers went to the quarterback. Perhaps at long last we'll appreciate Cutler for what he is: a great Chicago Bear.

Special contributor Jack M Silverstein covers the Bears for RedEye. Say hey @ReadJack.

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