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Associated Press
Green Bay's Clay Matthews sacks the Bears' Jay Cutler during the second half Thursday.

A (measured) defense of Jay Cutler

Once upon a time, when dinosaurs strolled the earth and we all got two NFL games a week instead of fifty gazillion, the saintly Bart Starr took a brutal hit to the face from a pass rusher while lingering back there in his pocket.

Now, Starr might have been the most soft-spoken individual ever to play quarterback in the NFL. But this was too much.

So he marched over to the offensive lineman who'd let the pass rusher through, got in his face and told him, in so many words, that if that guy got through again, he wasn't going to kick the pass rusher's tail. He was going to kick his own lineman's tail.

I mention this as a jumping point in the debate over whether Jay Cutler was out of line screaming at his O-linemen last night, on a night when Cutler was awful and his O-line was indescribably awful. Cutler threw four picks and made numerous other bad throws, and when he wasn't doing that he was on his back star-gazing. He got sacked seven times, got hit a bunch of other times, and got hurried a bunch more times.

So if you're asking if Cutler was just being his usual punk self when he got in his linemen's faces (and even bumped one), I'd say no. He was being a quarterback.

Cutler being Cutler, of course -- an inveterate whiner -- it came off as badly as you'd figure, especially the bumping part. That was over the line, and had J'Marcis Webb decked Cutler for it, he'd have gotten no grief for it from this neck of the woods.

Still .... it seems to me he was only doing what I've seen Peyton Manning do before, and Tom Brady (remember him shouting at his offensive coordinator last year?), and pretty much every significant QB in NFL history. Even, as we've seen, Bart Starr.

If any of them had done what Cutler did, it would have been held up as evidence of stellar leadership. But because it was Cutler, he gets no such benefit of the doubt.

A man's reputation precedes him, and colors all our perceptions of him. Home truth.

Ben Smith's blog.