By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) Jay Cutler can’t win. Even when the Chicago Bears win, their quarterback is still a loser in so many eyes.
It’s so difficult to be positive about Cutler. I know that, even if I don’t quite get that. There are so many Abe Simpsons and Red Formans out there just waiting for a screwup. And it shows a sad collective pathology when even in victory, there’s a part of writers, talkers and fans — however tiny — who wish the worst for Cutler just to validate the solidified opinion they already have of him.
On Sunday, the Bears opened up the passing game that had been expected to be utter death to a defense going into the season. They moved away from the little routes that hopefully break into big plays and, behold, just went for big plays. And with large men catching the ball, big plays happened. So then Matt Forte was able to happen, too. Then at no point did the Falcons ever seem in control of the game.
After Cutty and Co. completely owned the Atlanta Falcons, I specifically listened for how the reaction to a 26-of-38, 381-yard, one-touchdown, no-turnover performance would disrupt the red-headed stepchild narrative that has been tattooed to him for a while now. Some writers gave him due credit. They were the minority to those either indifferent about Cutler as the story or who pushed back the goalposts with some form of “Yeah, but …” about Cutler’s game. Such is the football life of the man people love to hate.
“Jay Cutler burns Atlanta.” “Cutler leads road-warrior Bears past Falcons, 27-13.” “Jay Cutler throws for team personal best; Bears flatten Falcons.” Those complimentary headlines were out there. Heck, even Dan Bernstein made a point to give Cutler props in a column about a foggy Bears future. Being nice to Cutler doesn’t draw the sharks, though.
“But look at that: Cutler didn’t choke the lead against the Falcons the way he did that previous two games,” the Tribune’s Steve Rosenbloom wrote.
“Oh sure, Cutler still threw a dumb pass or two, such the bomb to Marshall into double coverage. But look at that: zero interceptions, zero fumbles, zero turnovers.
“What’s more — are you sitting down? — Cutler directed scoring drives in each quarter of the second half. No lie. True fact.”
Don’t mention, though, that there were four third-down conversions under Cutler’s watch on the drive that led to Forte’s game-icing touchdown. It takes away from the choking imagery. Jay Cutler brings home an A to hang on the fridge, and the stern dads out there tell him that’s what he’s supposed to do rather than compliment him.
And then Cutler’s faulted — by so many — for not having the warmest personality in press conferences.
“Let’s start with the things Jay Cutler didn’t do Sunday because they were as big as the big things he did,” Rick Morrissey opened with in his “Cutler didn’t dribble this down his leg” postgame column Sunday. No, how about just what he did?
Jay Cutler didn’t release wasps into an old folks home or fire puppies from a Civil War cannon, either. Doesn’t mean they demand focus. Morrissey encored that with Tuesday’s “Bears can still be a postseason team, but not because of Cutler” column.
“I see a Cutler who no doubt will revert back to his maddening form,” Morrissey wrote. “You see a Cutler who is evolving into the precise quarterback he was against the Falcons. Let’s agree you’re wrong.”
Unless you want to look at the 10 games the Bears have left and the defenses they’ll face. Only three of those games involve a top-10 defense, according to Football Outsiders. Five of those games involve the Vikings, Saints, Bucs, and Cowboys — politely considered porous units. If Cutler can’t do well against teams like that, I’ll acknowledge a reversion. Until then, I’ll agree to nothing of the sort.
Many other game takes ignored Cutler and focused on the Bears defense. (That defense that Cutler praised like a jerk just like he jerkily praised the Bears fans that showed up to Atlanta.) No doubt, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker’s crew deserves a ton of credit. Kyle Fuller continued to show he is the real deal, the skeleton crew of linebackers played way over their skis, Jared Allen got his first sack and Willie Young got his league-leading seventh. Good times.
But it was good quarterbacking, too. The kind that should be appreciated rather than backhanded.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @TimBaffoe.