In the Wake of the News
12:19 AM CDT, September 16, 2012
In 143 starts over 12 NFL seasons, former Bears right tackle James "Big Cat'' Williams never saw anything like it.
When Williams witnessed Bears quarterback Jay Cutler bump left tackle J'Marcus Webb during a sideline rant in Thursday night's 23-10 loss to the Packers, he knew coach Lovie Smith potentially faces bigger issues than pass protection.
Can Cutler ever show the leadership required to take the Bears to a Super Bowl if he keeps making it so hard for teammates to follow him with stunts like he pulled at Lambeau Field?
"That was very disturbing to me,'' said Williams, a Bear from 1991-2002. "I realize (Cutler) is one of the faces of the franchise but certain lines you just don't cross. Bumping a player is one of them. I played with a group of guys who, I don't think, would have taken that. I can't say I would have.''
Webb took it. He just smiled and turned away from Cutler, interpreted by some as taking the high road and by others as showing the passivity that makes him the offense's poorest blocker. Webb missed an opportunity to gain teammates' respect by failing to stand up to Cutler. But the exchange NFL Network cameras caught revealed more about Cutler than Webb and renewed doubts about a quarterback behaving more like a classic bully than team leader.
Notice Cutler didn't shove center Roberto Garza. He preyed on the weakest offensive lineman having the worst night, an easy mark. Instead of giving Webb an encouraging tap on the head as he did buddy Brandon Marshall after his dropped touchdown pass, Cutler lost his composure. And as much as Cutler apologists hate to acknowledge, too often when the quarterback loses his cool it precedes the Bears losing the football because of impaired judgment. Too often since 2009, turnovers follow tantrums.
Forget what Cutler's body language says to fans and media. It matters most when it echoes with teammates as loudly as it did Thursday. I am out of control.
"Whoever your leader is, you're expected to look at that person for answers and to be cool, calm and collected,'' Williams said. "That's not (Cutler's) demeanor. He's a different kind of guy.''
He's a guy who undid months of repair work on his image around the league since the 2010 NFC championship game with one split-second tangle with Webb. A guy who can dismiss perception and personality concerns in the interview room until they begin seeping into his locker room, which might have happened Thursday night. A guy who has some explaining to do to a group of offensive linemen whose loyalty every quarterback needs.
Are those linemen still willing to run through a wall for a guy they might like to mop the floor with?
"If I were (Webb) I'd be thinking, 'We're all trying to win and we're all having problems right now. For as bad as I might have been blocking, you were throwing just as bad. So don't take your frustrations with the team and yourself out on me,' '' Williams said. "As professional athletes, you just can't do it.''
Cutler's lack of remorse only magnified his shortcomings as a leader. Yeah, so Cutler cares about winning. So does every NFL quarterback. Most show it without bullying their starting left tackle.
Defending the outburst might have been more acceptable if Cutler also had accepted responsibility for his role in the most disappointing all-around showing of his Bears' career. But in a moment that called for accountability, Cutler deflected blame with sarcasm. He rekindled doubt he ever will be a stand-up guy teammates support unconditionally à la Rodgers, Brees or Brady.
When Cutler kept giving the Packers' "2-man,'' defensive look credit for shutting down Marshall, it subtly shifted focus from his poor execution to offensive coordinator Mike Tice's flawed game plan. Ron Turner and Mike Martz could relate. Tice's game plan neglecting the run was bad, but Cutler's four-interception performance was worse. Own it.
Now Cutler's immaturity begs for an intervention. Now Smith must deliver a strong message that reminds Cutler an NFL quarterback's job involves more than just completing passes. If Smith cannot see the dangerous path Cutler could be leading the Bears down, perhaps the fresh eyes of general manager Phil Emery can.
This remains a good team capable of going 11-5. This remains Cutler's team, by design.
The Bears dumped Martz and hired Cutler's old quarterbacks coach. They traded for Cutler's favorite receiver. They invested heavily in giving the 29-year-old Cutler everything he needs to succeed as the Bears franchise quarterback.
The one thing the Bears couldn't buy Cutler is what they now need him to show most.
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