Theismann: Let Cutler be Cutler
Theismann: Let Cutler be Cutler
By Fred Mitchell Tribune reporter 1:18 p.m. CDT, June 8, 2011
Joe Theismann says Jay Cutler was unfairly criticized for sitting out most of the second half of the NFC Championship Game largely because of his personality, and that fans should stop expecting the Chicago Bears quarterback to be someone he isn't.
Theismann endured one of the most excruciating injuries ever witnessed on a football field when he had his leg snapped into a compound fracture after he was hit by the Giants' Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson on Nov. 18, 1985 on Monday Night Football. Cutler's sprained knee injury was much less conspicuous.
“I just felt like Jay was treated very, very wrongly by other guys in the game,” Theismann told the Tribune. “What nobody wants to talk about is that here’s a guy that actually went back out on the field (in the second half) and tried to play. It wasn’t like he told the coaches: ‘Hey, look, I can’t do anything, I can’t play.’
“That wasn’t the case at all. You know, Jay tried to play on a bad knee. Unfortunately, when things like that happen, you’re in trouble. What kept running through my mind was the picture of LaDainian Tomlinson sitting on the sidelines during the (2008) AFC Championship Game when Phillip Rivers had the knee problems. I started thinking, here’s Jay sitting on the sideline. You’re not on crutches … people have this crazy image that, ‘Well, how hurt can he really be? Doesn’t he understand how important this game is?’
“Heck, yeah, he does.That’s why he tried to go back in. He would have only hurt his team had he tried to play. Not to mention himself. I think he will be fine. Once they get back, it will be the second year in Mike (Martz’s) system. He’s going to have a whole lot better understanding of it."
Theismann said it's clear what Cutler needs most.
"What the Bears need is a wide receiver," he said. "Let me tell you, Jay Cutler is the least of that offense’s problems.You need somebody to throw the football to. They finally woke up and said, ‘Hey, Devin (Hester), we’re only going to use you part-time because you’re such a valuable asset on punt returns.’
Theismann, a former Notre Dame All-American and a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, feels fans and media are hung up on wanting Cutler to fit the personality stereotype of an NFL quarterback.
“What you’re basically asking Jay to do is change his personality,” Theismann said. “I think the fans have to understand that Jay is not an outspoken individual. He is a very quiet, reserved demeanor individual. That’s who he is. You are rooting for him when he steps on that football field and he leads the Chicago Bears and plays quarterback. That’s why the fans are there.
“You have a lot of different types of personalities. Brian Urlacher is a bit more outspoken as a person. And Jay is not. To me, I would say, hey, respect who the guy is. At least you know he’s not a phony. There’s no false pretense about Jay, where he is going to go out there and try to be a rah-rah guy.
"That’s the other thing people said: ‘This was a great chance for Jay to enhance his image, to be able to walk up and down the sidelines and cheer his teammates on.’ That’s the biggest crock of baloney I’ve heard. You know, he was true to himself, the way he plays the game, the way he mentally prepares. I’ve sat with Jay. I have sat and talked in meetings with him. The guy loves the game of football. He’s smart, he’s talented. But he’s quiet. What’s wrong with that? Oh, my gosh! Someone quiet in our society. That’s a novelty.
“You have to respect people for who they are. I went through this in my career. I bought things that I thought (NFL) quarterbacks should have. I said things because I thought that was the way a quarterback should act. I fell into that trap. So maybe that is why I am a little more sensitive to the way Jay is than maybe other guys, because he hasn’t. He’s his own man."
Theismann believes that a veteran team such as the Bears should have an advantage next season, once the labor impasse is resolved.
“I was part of two of (the NFL labor impasses): ’74 and ’82. The ’74 strike happened before the season started. In ’82, we had already played two games.The difference between where we are now and where we were then... the work stoppage occurred during the season, so we had all of the players in town. And it was a question of when we might we go back to work,” Theismann said .
With the absence of organized training activities at the respective NFL team facilities, players from the Bears and other clubs have tried to set up group workouts in addition to their individual sessions.
“I think the biggest challenge that every team faces and every team leader faces is that you have players spread out all over the country,” Theismann said. ”So if you’re a quarterback, you basically have to set up camp in (places such as) Arizona, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and California. It’s a little tougher for team leaders to organize workouts.
“There’s no question that I believe there will be football. But when it does start up again, the veteran teams will have an advantage over a team like the Carolina Panthers … with a new coach (Ron Rivera), new quarterback (Cam Newton) … and possibly Cincinnati, a new offensive coordinator (Jay Gruden).”
Theismann, who guided the Redskins to the Super Bowl XVII championship, will be in Chicago (Hyatt Regency McCormick Place Hotel) on June 18 to promote preventative screening for an important public health issue: abdominal aortic aneurysms, or AAA (referred to as “Triple A”). Joe’s father survived a AAA -- a blood-filled bulge in the abdominal aorta that can burst unexpectedly, often with fatal consequences. At-risk individuals should call (866) 371-3592 to register for the free screening.