When Jay Cutler was drafted by Mike Shanahan and the Broncos, the fans in Denver were excited. The kid had displayed an electric arm at Vanderbilt. Jake Plummer was the Broncos QB at the time and just a season removed from leading the Broncos to the AFC title game in January of 2006 he found himself knocked from the helm in favor of Jay Cutler that following fall. Perhaps after the Super Bowls of the late 1990's Broncos fans suffered the same affliction as the fans of the Yankees, Steelers, Red Wings, Longhorns, Lakers, or Celtics, a sense of entitlement to always be good and talk down to the fans of inferior sports organizations. Broncos fans cheered the Jay Cutler replacement and the Broncos fell from a playoff spot with Plummer to out of the race with Jay. I don't mean to imply that Jay was the problem and I certainly understand that the Broncos brass felt they had to give Cutler the nod so as to not be paying way too much for a backup QB, but I never felt the huge number of Broncos fans who put down Jake Plummer were fair to the gutsy former Cardinals QB.
All that said, Jay Cutler made some electric passes when he became the Broncos playcaller. A 70-yard bomb to Javon Walker in one of his first starts certainly caught my eye as a throw that Plummer didn't have in the arsenal. Cutler was beloved in Denver. Not John Elway style beloved, but the fans supported him and made custom tee-shirts ("JC Saves", etc.). Just as fans were quick to turn on Plummer, and Brian Griese before that, fans found a way to take Josh McDaniels side and actually celebrated the end of the Jay Cutler era and crowing of Kyle Orton.
This week Jay Cutler was knocked out of the NFC title game and the mixed reactions in Denver were very interesting. Some still harvest great resentment towards Jay and called him a quitter. It seems others, although a minority, still support Jay and felt bad for an injury ending his season shortly before the Bears were knocked out of contention. Well for any Broncos fans, or for anyone out there at large who has revelled in Jay's injury this week, your opinion of Jay's toughness is dead wrong.
We had people like Pete Prisco of CBSSPORTS, and he wasn't alone, saying Jay Cutler would have played on a torn MCL if he had guts like Philip Rivers. This is such total garbage. You hear about player playing hurt but saying they can't go when they're injured. Look at all the hits Jay sustained this year and in total during his years in the NFL. It's easy for internet tough guys to say Jay's soft, because they've probably never felt the pain of a rough day as NFL QB a single day in their lives. Comparing Jay to Rivers is probably the lamest thing you can do too. Without medical knowledge you have no way of comparing the injuries. "Well they were both MCL's..."
The Rick Reilly's of the world, and all of the sports curmudeons showed up in droves both before and after the game to pile onto Jay, were also completely dispicable. "Oh, Jay's playoff win doesn't count, because they beat a 8-9 team." "Jay Cutler is soft and has no leadership." If Jay had no leadership then why did Josh McDaniels get rid of every single major playmaker that Jay played with, except Eddie Royal? Jay had friends in that locker room. The offense was the heart of that team and they trusted Jay and Josh McDaniels got rid of every player who had loyalties to Jay and Shanahan and tanked an average team into one of their worst seasons. Notice that not a single Jay Cutler former teammate from the Broncos was on Twitter blasting the embattled QB.
Jay joined a Bears team where the defense is the heart of the team. There is and has been a terrible offensive line and a lack of weapons in the receiver spots. Still Cutler led the offense of a team that earned the second seed a bye week in the playoffs and played a considerably more difficult schedule than the top seeded Falcons. Brian Urlacher didn't treat Cutler with respect when he joined the team, but I would submit that after two years of Urlacher seeing Jay absorb incredible punishment behind a terrible line and continue to fight that Brian now respects Cutler.
It's unclear why Jay Cutler is such an NFL piriah right now. I personally think all the venomous articles swarming the media have tainted the national perception of the talented QB. Were any of these people watching the Monday Night Football game against the Packers where Jay took a vicious heatshot from Frank Zombo and stayed in the game to lead the Bears to victory? Even look to the game on Sunday night, where he clearly couldn't step into his throws and continued to get pummeled in the pocket. The Bears' doctor declared it unsafe for Jay to return. Why on earth should we expect a player to risk life and limb when he's shown the ability to play through pain before. He just couldn't go.
Let's try to remember how to be real fans. Just because Deion Sanders, a guy who tried as hard as he could to never take a hard hit in his life, Tweets about Jay doesn't mean he's right. And in the post Josh McDaniels era fans need to recognize what a personel nightmare we lived through. It's not Jay's fault that McDaniels was intent on clearing out all of the best offensive threats. Jay Cutler isn't a media darling, but he plays football like a professional and deserves some respect especially from his peers and those that once cheered him in Denver.