By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) Jay Cutler is many things, but football stupid isn’t one of them.
Adding insult to imbecility last year was the ongoing debate of the Chicago Bears quarterback’s willingness to lead his teammates into the burning, collapsing, abandoned warehouse that was the 2014 season.
Cutler’s leadership qualities, a debate that has always varied between the vague and downright dumb, reached peak #HotTake once it was apparent that the NFL’s second-largest market was in the toilet but still needed analysis of the flushing. Steve Mariucci of the NFL Network gabbed about Cutler looking not interested and those all-important intangibles, the catch-all term for football dudes who can’t come up with actual words to describe people. And in Cutler’s case, it’s code for, “I wish he didn’t have a face I want to hit with a kettle bell.”
Peter King, America’s football compass, explained midseason: “I don’t ask Cutler to throw a helmet or knock over the Gatorade table or be the team cheerleader. I just ask him to care. Or to at least look like he cares.”
The hell does that even mean? King later said in his piece that Cutler should fake it if need be. Because football fans need the illusion of orgasm at least, I guess.
Those takes are somewhat forgivable today because the Hindenburg that was the Marc Trestman Bears combusted so unexpectedly and fantastically that everyone was left unprepared in terms of Bears #takes. The hard drive crashed, and the only files that could be saved were “Brandon_Marshall_please_shut_up.html,” “TrestmanHair.jpg” and “CutlerFrown.gif.”
On the flip side, Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports, bless his heart, wrote last month on Cutler taking on a leadership role. (Finally! Am I right, people?) But then whatever water that held was evaporated by the tea-sipping talk of the Martellus Bennett comments in last month’s Chicago Magazine piece that wheeled the piñata of stupid catharsis back out from the shed of irrationality for a few more giddy whacks from fans and media alike.
From Chicago Magazine:
Jay Cutler took his share of blame, too (for the 2014 Bears debacle), but Bennett doesn’t think it was all deserved. “Why does everyone always assume the quarterback is the leader?” Bennett asks. “Leading the offense and leading the team are two different things. Sometimes I like Cutty, and sometimes I don’t. When I think of a leader, I think, ‘If he started a company, would guys come to work for him?’ There’s a lot of guys on our team who, if they started a business, it’d be, “F*** you, I’m gonna go work at McDonald’s.”
So would Bennett work at Cutler Corp.? “There are veterans that people follow,” he says after a long pause, “and then you’ve got guys that lead the offense, get everyone lined up, get to your spot, do what you need to do, let’s do our plays. Take that as you will.”
I take that as a Cutler teammate being tired of answering questions about a quarterback who isn’t a distraction to the team by way of off-the-field issues as some current and now-former Bears have been in 2015. And I take it as a guy in a contract year looking to get paid who likely doesn’t want to piss off the guy he’s depending on to get him the ball. But I’m weird like that.
One saving grace of the upcoming long day’s journey into awful that will be the 2015 Chicago Bears season is going to be the absence of one of the dumbest narratives bandied about these past six-plus seasons — the leadership of No. 6.
The Cutler-as-Washington-crossing-the-Delaware thing has to be dead this fall because even if he was the rah-rah, facemask-grabbing Greg Marmalard redux, what’s it going to do for this season that has all the ominous makings of a fat kid stepping on a skateboard in a Vine video? Before you hem and haw, I’ll help you out — nothing. It will do nothing.
The Bears product is already spoiled before the regular season even starts. The defensive personnel is still garbage enough that even the respected Vic Fangio isn’t going to be able to put a cap on opponents’ points enough for a really good Cutler to outscore. And fat chance of that happening anyway with a receiver corps that at the moment has a dude you went to high school with as fifth on the depth chart.
Teams that aren’t good to begin with — and even the most diehard fanboys and fangirls of you need to admit that the Bears aren’t good — tend to rack up more injuries as the year goes on. So imagine, if you dare, what this team will be trotting out to the field in, say, Week 9 as ESPN rues putting them in prime time. And the Bears plan to run the ball more, and gambler’s fallacy be damned, the soon-departed Matt Forte’s health has been too lucky in the past.
Leadership shouldn’t be even a minor theme when it comes to this team. To bang drums and get in teammates’ faces during a year where 8-8 would be miraculous would come off as not just the fakeness that some demand but downright clownish.
And if you crave symbols of leadership, look no further than the Bears coach, John Fox, who has enacted Orwellian restraints on the local media when he or other team reps aren’t literally lying to beat reporters about injuries.
Should Cutler take a cue from the likes of that? Call the dude all the names in the book and speak to his uber-relevant Q rating by way of salacious headline, but liar has never been an appropriate one.
Jay will be Jay, constant as the Northern Star, for the season’s entirety (assuming his ghastly-looking offensive line doesn’t get him killed). He will do Jay Cutler things — some impressive, many frustrating — and the Bears will sludge their way to a debate anew about how best to not fubar the 2016 draft.
And it will be in no part because of a lack of unquantifiable, antediluvian “leadership” on the field. If you want to run blind into this new empty, flaming building we got here, by all means do so. Don’t #HotTake the non-imbecile quarterback for not being first to bust down the door, though.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.