By David Hauser
First off, let the record state how difficult it is, in this the year of 2012, to find an actual hardbound (not even leather-bound nor smelling of rich mahogany) copy of the English dictionary. But one university research library and two reference section workers with Masters in Library Sciences degrees later, just as I suspected, Jay Cutler’s picture is indeed printed right alongside the definition of “petulant” in the English dictionary.
Capricious? Check. Insolent and rude? Check. Fussy disposition? Emphatic check.
Ever since the mysterious self benching in the 2010 NFC Championship against his Bears’ ancient rival Packers, which resulted in Caleb Hanie’s 15 minutes of sports almost fame, the sports world has been scrambling to label and understand the moody man from Santa Claus, Indiana.
Following, his 2010 NFC Championship no-show many were quick to cast the titles of “soft” and “quitter” on Cutler, especially considering the context that across the way in a similar 2007 AFC Championship, Chargers QB Philip Rivers valiantly competed to vault his team into the Super Bowl against the Patriots while playing on a torn ACL in his right knee (an injury that prevents most men from walking for several months without the aid of crutches). These labels were somewhat buffered in the court of public opinion by fellow teammate Brian Urlacher’s ardent defense of Culter after the game saying, “Jay was hurt. He’s tough as hell. He’s one of the toughest guys on our football team.”
Adding to Urlacher’s statement and much to sportsnations’ surprise, Jay Cutler came out in the 2011 regular season and embodied the toughness that so many doubted within him. He took an absolute beating from opposing teams’ defenses due to the fact the he was quarterbacking the offense with the most permeable offense line in the NFL. And for the most part he did not complain. More impressive yet, despite his team’s inability to block (an obvious basic staple of a winning football team), Cutler had his team near the top of the NFC and a late in the season dark horse favorite among many NFL analysts to make the Super Bowl. This hopeful re-branding of the newer, tougher, grittier Cutler came to a halt though during a Week 10 matchup against the Chargers, when Cutler scrambled out of the pocket away from pursuant pass rushers and was tackled awkwardly resulting in a broken thumb on his throwing hand, ending his season and the Bears hopes of making a Super Bowl run.
And now we have arrived back into the current 2012 season, where the most ubiquitous comparison to Cutler these days has been to Mckayla Maroney, the famed frowny faced American Olympic gymnast disappointed with her silver medal.
This Internet meme and re-characterization of Cutler emerged after he slapped, moaned, and whined toward his offensive line during a humiliating loss to the Packers on Thursday Night Football several weeks back. Following his Packers game temper tantrum, yet again during a national televised game earlier this week on Monday Night Football (a win no less), Cutler was twice seen scurrying away from his offensive coordinator, his direct supervisor, Mike Tice. Tice, coming over to the bench to plot a future strategy, make adjustments, and correct for his offenses’ weak first half performance, was met
And this is where Cutler lay…toiling in adolescence. Jay has shown us all visibly and loudly, while still maintaining a precise and elevated degree of “sulk,” that he has a disdain for his parents (coaches), is moody and affective, erratic and unpredictable, and has an aggrandized view of himself where he does not need others’ help because he knows it all (except when things go bad, then it’s everybody else’s fault). Nickelodeon would be within fair judgment to contact Jay’s agent about green-lighting their new pilot- “Cutler Explains it All.”
The good news: inherent in any petulant adolescent is the ability to change, blossom, to emerge out of this annoying “stage” of development and launch into adulthood: finding leadership within themselves and hopefully eventually even leading others around them. Yet, just like parents would not be wise to give their petulant teenager a $2000 weekly allowance, Bears fans must worry that their management has already given their petulant pubescent QB $50 million all while not knowing if he has the fortitude and more importantly the maturity to lead despite the stress that inevitably arises from losses and occasional team shortcomings.
Will he bloom, “launch,” develop into an adult, or won’t he? This is the question for Bears fans in Chicagoland and beyond. When you look around the league, the emphasis is on young quarterbacks and playing them with less experience than ever; 10 teams are starting either a rookie or second year QB this season. The expectations have risen for the most important position in team sports and the word petulance is not in the standard description when NFL personnel members describe their ideal quarterback. With Cutler in his 7th season, the pressure mounts for him to finally grow up…but as with most teenagers he seems to be the last to recognize this responsibility.