CHICAGO -- The only thing older than the Bears-Packers rivalry is the Bears' failure over most of that time at quarterback. Great linebackers, running backs and linemen the Bears have plenty of; quarterbacks are another matter entirely. And perhaps never has there been more despair in Chicago over quarterback incompetence than in the wake of the loss to the Packers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday. Forbidding the mention of the name Jay Cutler
may be the best way to cope with winter. Only a Bears quarterback could stink out the joint and then get worse while sitting on the sideline.
Look, you're not going to read in this space any suggestion from me that Cutler's knee injury wasn't serious enough to send him to the sideline or that Cutler was a complete baby for not going back on the field with a trip to the Super Bowl at stake. But any credible analysis of the NFC Championship Game, especially of the Bears' performance, has to start with Cutler, the pivotal figure in the game whether we're talking about his first-half incompetence or his second-half absence.
The absence, without question, infuriated more people. In 30 years of covering professional football I've never seen a front-line player crushed by his peers the way Cutler was Sunday in real time. Granted, communicating via Twitter is still relatively new, and we're now privy to unedited thoughts in a way we've never been previously. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
linebacker Derrick Brooks
, a future Hall of Famer, tweeted, "I have to be crawling and can't get up to come off the field. Josh Freeman
would not come out. Meds are available ... " A few minutes later when the Bears sent their third-stringer, Caleb Hanie
, in to the game and Cutler was therefore ineligible to return, Brooks tweeted, "There is no medicine for a guy with no guts and heart."
Another future Hall of Famer, Deion Sanders
, said, "I never question a player's injury, but I do question a player's heart."