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The Pro Game

Chicago, city of slumped shoulders

About the Author

Tom Danyluk

Danyluk1@yahoo.com
Contributing writer

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Posted Oct. 05, 2011 @ 4:13 p.m. ET
By Tom Danyluk

Last Sunday, Jay Cutler went 9-for-17 in his passing. The payoff was 102 yards and an interception. That was it. An off day for Jay. Carolina's thrill boy Cam Newton came in and threw for 374 yards, but Cutler still won the game.

They don't like Jay Cutler around Chicago. That probably won't change. They can't take his slumped shoulders, and that who-gives-a-crap expression he wears … like the punk kid in the rear of the classroom who studies the clock all day, dying to get back on his skateboard with all the other urchins who don't care.

They don't like the way his face looks after he has made a nitwit play … or a damn good one. Because it's the same guise either way it goes. Cutler, who delivers his game with the zest of a mortician.

In Chicago they want somebody who gives 'em hell, who raps his teammates on the helmet when they do good and who can change his own tires when it's 13-below. Yet, when the Bears are on defense, Jay Cutler takes the bench like he's sliding into a church pew.

One time, years ago, John Unitas came to play. One of the Bears smashed a heavy forearm across his face, so they stuffed mud up his nostrils to kill the bleeding. The ref stopped by the huddle. He said, "Take all the time you need, John," and Unitas ripped into him.

"Get the hell out of here," he said. "I'm trying to call a play!"

Chicago fans go for that kind of stuff. They like mud-and-blood quarterbacks. They don't enjoy watching Jay Cutler.

Cutler won 10 ballgames for the Bears last season. He tossed 23 touchdown passes. He led the team into the conference championship game.

The toughness thing? Since he landed at O'Hare in 2009 he has been sacked 102 times, with more to come. He gets up after all of them. None of that seems to matter along Lake Shore Drive. They don't like the looks of him.

Remember how it was in Chicago before Cutler? It was Rex Grossman's turn. They didn't dig Rex either, but for different reasons (small hands, big turnovers, etc.). Grossman even got his team into the Super Bowl once, but that didn't matter to Bears fans. They hated him, so he left for Texas. At last check he was doing OK for Mike Shanahan and the Redskins.

You would think Bears fans were spoiled with wonderful passing over the years in Chicagoland, all that attitude, but that hasn't been the case.

After Grossman, there was Kyle Orton and Brian Griese. Before Grossman, things were worse for Chicago fans. They had to look at Chad Hutchinson and Kordell Stewart and Jim Miller and Cade McNown.

And before that, it was Shane Matthews and Erik Kramer and an over-the-hill Dave Krieg and Steve Walsh and an OK thrower named Jim Harbaugh.

And that's 20 years of Bears' QBs we've just pit a rope around, and if you skip over the sparkly Jim McMahon era you can work back through another 20 years of misery — Vince Evans and Mike Phipps and Bob Avellini and Gary Huff. Or how about Bobby Douglass and Jack Concannon and Virgil Carter and Rudy Bukich? The moral of this is that Bears fans learn to complain about their quarterbacking at a very early age.

There's a portion of the populace now barking for Caleb Hanie to move into the job. He can do better, we're told. Hanie, the undrafted free agent from Colorado State whose résumé includes a touchdown throw for the Bears and one to Green Bay in last year's NFC title game. Ah, the never-dying allure of the backup quarterback.

One time they asked Weeb Ewbank, the old Baltimore Colts and New York Jets head coach, what it meant having a guy like Unitas on his team. Ewbank was very clear.

"It kept us from making big mistakes," he said. "It kept us from trading for mistakes and drafting mistakes. That's what an All-Pro quarterback does … he keeps you mistake-free."

Cutler is no All-Pro, but he could be. With a little change in chemistry, he could get there. An All-Pro passer, something the Bears haven't had since 1950, when someone named Johnny Lujak was winging around town.

 


 

I watched this documentary about Steve Bartman the other night, Bartman being the guy who reached for the foul ball and supposedly blew the 2003 pennant for the Cubs, who haven't won the World Series since 1908.

There was the camera footage from that night at Wrigley Field, with the crowd heckling and launching threats at poor Bartman, and some stupid SOB firing a beer at the poor guy's head, as he sat there all forlorn, staring out at the field, slumped shoulders. Chicago has a thing about slumped shoulders.

What a cop out. The mob mentality. An angry, trophy-starved fan base looking for its Judas.

They still don't like Bartman in Chicago, and they don't like Jay Cutler. What, the two aren't related, you say?

Take a good look at it; maybe they really are.

 

Tom Danyluk is an award-winning freelance writer based in Chicago. His book on pro football, "The Super '70s," is available at Amazon.com. You can contact Tom at Danyluk1@yahoo.com.

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