By Steve Silverman
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Professional football is the toughest of businesses. A player puts his health and life on the line every time he walks onto the field, whether it’s for a game or even a practice.
It’s a remarkable risk that all players know about, and the onset of CTE is a situation that nearly all players fear, whether they admit it or not.
So, from one perspective, it would be hard to blame any player for going through the motions and thinking about his future rather than the business of winning. But that’s what it takes to stay in the NFL and perform at a consistently outstanding level.
Jay Cutler is a quarterback who has had remarkable physical skills throughout his NFL career with the Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears. He was drafted by the Broncos and spent three years in Denver before he was traded to the Bears following a dispute with a new coach who was trying to light a fire under the quarterback.
The Bears looked at Cutler as something of a savior. He was a quarterback who would raise the team’s offensive profile by giving it a big-time leader who could throw the ball downfield as well as anyone in the league.
Or at least that was the thinking.
Leader? Thoughts of Cutler as a great leader were disappearing before he finished his first training camp in Chicago in 2009. Instead, Cutler regularly wore a mopey expression that told the world he was playing football because it was his job.
The Bears parted ways with Cutler last week, and the New York Jets are among the teams that have an interest in pursuing the quarterback. Signing Cutler would be a big mistake for the Jets.
During his run with the Bears, Cutler seemed to care more about fulfilling the listed requirements of his job instead of doing whatever it takes to win in the NFL.
It got worse for Cutler as the years went along, and his great arm strength never translated into consistent production for the Bears. Despite his ability to fire missiles all over the field and get rid of the ball quickly, he often threw the ball into coverage at the worst possible moment.
He lost fumbles and threw game-changing interceptions, and the Bears paid a huge price. Cutler led Chicago to the playoffs exactly once in his eight years with the team, and that ended up as a personal disaster for the quarterback.
Chicago won the NFC North title in 2010 with an 11-5 record and had a favorable matchup with a 7-9 Seattle Seahawks team in the divisional playoffs. The Bears beat those struggling Seahawks 35-24.
They had a chance to reach the Super Bowl, but they could not beat the Green Bay Packers at home the following week in the NFC championship game. Cutler was 6-of-14 for 80 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions before he suffered a knee injury and was replaced by Caleb Hanie.
While Cutler was hurt, it appeared to many that he simply chose to abdicate the throne, and he was met by nearly unprecedented criticism from players around the league who perceived that he had begged off the field in the title game.
That assessment lacked factual evidence, but perception is reality to some.
Other stories followed that Cutler, with that knee injury, went to dinner at a Chicago restaurant that night where he was forced to walk upstairs to get to his table. If he had a knee injury that knocked him out of the NFC championship game, how could he negotiate a flight of stairs?
The attacks may not have been fair, but Cutler has never been the type of player who would sell out or do everything within his power to help his team win.
He will be 34 before next season, and there’s no reason to believe that anything would change when he puts on another team’s uniform.
Cutler performs in a very tough business, one that leaves many of its participants in painful physical condition once they leave the game. But he appears to give the bare minimum, and that does not lead to winning in his chosen profession.
When you play in the NFL, you are not playing just to get a trophy for participating. You play to get into the postseason and ultimately have a shot at the Super Bowl.
Cutler is just another guy who is trying to work the system. He may decide that he has earned enough money and that retirement is an option.
No matter what, the Jets simply have too many issues to take on a quarterback who has never done anything but flash his talent.
He has never been a consistent winner, and he never will be.
Signing Cutler would only add to the Jets’ misery.
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