Well that didn’t exactly go as we planned.

Here 48 hours after the Bears’ disaster by the lake, at the hands of the Packers no less, I feel like there is not a whole lot to say.  The reason I started this blog was to post my comments on the commentary, and provide a unique view from my perspective, but so much ink has been spent on the happenings at 1410 Museum Campus Dr. between the hours of 2-6pm on Sunday, January 23rd, that it’s tough to find blank space on the page.  So all I can do is write what I felt and what I know and look forward to a 2011 season full of answers, assuming a season happens at all.

I cannot sit here and tell you that I wasn’t screaming at my television when Jay left the field with time on the clock in the first half (even though Green Bay was just taking a knee) surrounded by grey haired men in official team gear.  I yelled even louder when Todd Collins took off his parka and ran out to the huddle in the third quarter while an emotionless Cutler sat by himself on the bench.  If his knee hurts, why isn’t he stretching it out and getting it worked on?  And Todd Collins?  Really?  REALLY?  I think we all knew since week four in New York that Caleb Hanie was and will be a better option for the Bears under center for the rest of the year when called upon.  I was at the game in Carolina and if you thought Todd Collins was ever the correct answer to the question “who should we turn to the next time Cutler goes down?”  then you need to get your head examined.  This concussion thing is an epidemic.  A good test for this is in the NBA where if a player gets injured and can’t take their free throws after driving to the hoop, then the other team gets to pick a player from your bench to shoot for him.  That guy they pick is probably not exactly getting a huge confidence boost when he gets tapped by the other team as the weakest option available.  To that end, don’t you think the Packers would have picked Todd Collins if they had their druthers once Jay sat down?  What does that tell you? 

The biggest problem that I, and I can only assume the rest of Bear Nation, had with the whole sequence of events Sunday was the interpreted lack of emotion in Mr. Culter throughout.  If you’re hurt fine, I get it, it’s too bad and I’d like to think you’ve exhausted every option to keep trotting out for each series, but it is what it is.  We’re a generation that is reminded on SportsCenter every night about Byron Leftwich having his offensive linemen carry him downfield between plays while playing on a broken leg.  We know about Willis Reed playing Game 7 in 1970 with a torn muscle in his thigh.  Hell, even Cutler’s rival Philip Rivers played a 2008 playoff game without his ACL, and he was even kind enough to remind all of us about it just today and mentioned that he would have had to have been taken off in cart, but whatever, he’s not here to judge.  Thank you Philip.  There were no theatrics to Jay’s injury on Sunday, no seeing him trying to put weight on the knee and it buckling, no sideline assistant having to hide his helmet from him to keep him out of the game, or even a team doctor shaking his head side to side.  It’s true we don’t know what happened in the locker room at half time, and frankly only Jay Cutler truly knows the position he was in at the time, but from the images FOX brought into our living rooms America was not treated to pictures of the fearless leaders we’ve learned to celebrate in our culture.

What it boils down to is that we’re all entitled to our opinions and we all know what we saw.  Let’s all acknowledge FOX did a less than stellar job in providing coverage of the situation beyond a few picture of Jay on the bench alone and the term ‘Questionable’ was bounced around a few times leading us to believe there was a chance he’d be returning.  Otherwise we really didn’t get the story.  In the fallout after the game Caleb Hanie insists that Jay was involved and was offering insights so we’ll have to take his word for that.  What I’m interested in is where Jay chooses to go from here.

When Jay Cutler last met true adversity he maintained a Denver address and he chose to demand a trade rather than give Josh McDaniel’s new coaching staff a chance after Mike Shanahan was fired.  Well Jay, you got your wish, you’re in Chicago, and adversity is at your door once more.  There are two paths in front of you and I’m fascinated which you choose as it will define both your career and the foreseeable future of the Bears in the years to come. 

The first path is the status quo at best or anything worse.  Jay can opt to allow his knee to heal and get back to his normal off season conditioning program in time for OTAs and the like.  Another year in Mike Martz’s offense will undoubtedly lead to more success, as after the Earl Bennett 3rd and 3 end around call late in the fourth quarter, I’m going to assume Mr. Martz is not going to be lured away by better offers elsewhere.  The offensive line has nowhere to go but up and a lot of the early season confusion in alignment should get resolved by default.  There’s a very real chance that this time next year the Bears would still be in the playoffs or at least the playoff hunt based on a few bounces and calls/non-calls throughout the season.  Sure there will be ups and downs, touchdowns and interceptions, poor decisions and frozen rope 30 yard outs, we’ve seen that act and truly it’s not bad.  It’s better than the Moses Moreno era right?

The other option is to gather up all the Tweets and post, articles and editorial commentaries that have been put into the media monster and use them to fuel a fire inside that we’ve all been waiting to see fed.  Some even doubt if that fire exists at all.  When “Inside the NFL” had Cutler mic’d up for the Bills game early this year, the end result was the reality that Jay may be a pretty boring guy.  The highlight commentary of the game was him talking about how much he liked the refs.  I want to see a spark lit and have Jay go back to quarterback school to become the best player at the most important position on this team.  From his first day in Chicago, Norm Turner and soon after Mike Martz, let alone Trent Dilfer and the ESPN “experts”, have all weighed in on Culter’s poor mechanics.  When my mom knows what “throwing off your backfoot” means – she’s had plenty of experience with the concept as the torch was passed from Rex Grossman – it’s probably a bad thing.  While I understand the position of quarterback requires one to be able to throw from all arm angles, on the run, on your back, etc. there is no denying that proper form and technique when available improves one’s success rate.  I want to see Jay go back to basics and talk about developing his game like Tom Brady does in Bill Simmons’ recent puff piece.  Don’t do it in response to the critics, do it for yourself Jay, but use their words as fuel.  Think of Maurice Jones-Drew when your alarm goes off at 4:30am for film study of the greats on a still chilly May morning.  Call your receivers together in Nashville, or wherever Camp Culter chooses to call home this summer and get on the same page with each receiver, tight end, and running back, on every route in the playbook.  Make the rookies feel like they’re ten years behind when they show up in June, not two.  I want the stories in August to use words like, “I’ve never seen him in better shape,” “he’s never worked this hard,” and “the offense is light years beyond where they were last year.”  I want David Haugh and Brad Biggs arguing about how the first interception of camp, on day four mind you, was the fault of Julius Peppers bumping his arm in a non-contact drill.  I know it sounds like a lot but believe it or not this is what the great quarterbacks do.  They become head coaches and offensive coordinators on the field.  They become mentors and leaders to new teammates and old.  They take the podium first and answer questions directly and succinctly and run long so that other reluctant leaders *cough* Urlacher *cough* get to skip the press conference all together. 

I can go on and on about what a golden boy  quarterback can and should be, you know what I’m talking about, but the question is, does Jay?  Does he know what Brady and Manning go through to be in the position they are in at the top of the heap?  If not that says one thing – it’s time to stop hanging with reality stars and find a new social group of like industry professionals – and if he does know what it takes to achieve their accomplishments and chooses not to, well that says something entirely different.

There are two paths before you Mr. Cutler.  A fan base cannot wait to see which you take.