Packers 21, Bears 14: Bears, I Love You, But You're Bringing Me Down
Our records all show you are filthy but fine.
Apologies go out to anyone whose Monday was rendered meaningless without the official TUP word on all things Bears yesterday. My fault, I guess. Take a review-less day as a twist on the "if you can't say anything nice..." proverb you learned in kindergarten, with an appendage of me being self-aware enough to know when I'm too emotionally unstable -- and hungover -- to get all high-and-mighty with this stuff the way I normally pretend to. Thankfully, the Internet has a golden rule: when it doubt, post funny pictures of cats. That may have saved me from an embarrassing take yesterday, and allowed me to remember that, lookie here, this was the second most successful Bears team of my life. Hey, it's at least worth mentioning, and I can assure you it wasn't getting said had I done this in my normal late-night post-game slot. Blog archives never dissipate, and I have the skeletons in my closet to prove it. Distance can be a good thing.
Here's the truth: that game broke me in ways never before seen; I'm just glad I escaped the comforts of my friends without pulling a Cutler-in-the-locker-room. Damn, that was one I really, really wanted. I didn't play hype-man on Friday for nothing: that truly was as big as Chicago sports has ever gotten in my meager 23 years, and I don't expect to "get over it", or whatever, anytime soon. I'm not sorry: that was a game the Bears just fucking had to win. Losing it hurts in unparalleled ways, especially when I convinced myself it couldn't happen. In retrospect, the red herring seems obvious: 95 percent of the country thought Green Bay would prevail, while every freaking humanoid in this city was too busy chanting "Super Bears". The f'n Best Story Award, man. It'll get you every time you're this invested.
But yes, distance. Such a good weapon to have at your disposal when you're delusional enough to do something like this. It's the reason that I'm actually not going to blast the sports radio call-in meatballs who summoned their own unique blend of hate-mongering after seeing Frowny Face frown all over that precious sideline while standing upright. The nerve of that bastard: whatever happened to Chicago Tough, dammit!
Look: I'm excusing those dummies just this once, because I totally get it. If this was an M. Night movie, there's your twist. Those people were comically wrong-headed -- given another 24 hours and a real, concrete diagnosis, it's not even something worth arguing about anymore. If you're hurt, you're hurt, ect., ect., ect. The only difference between the dummies and everyone else, though, was that they didn't have enough foresight to start drinking and turn off The Score. Shove an a.m. radio in front of my grill Sunday night and I would have said some batty stuff, too. Nearly everyone would have; I have the text message inbox to prove it. That's why they get pardoned: they kick and scream because they care too much, and this time, I was every bit as altered as they were (and always are). Bears-Packers for the freaking Super Bowl means objectivity goes out the window, at least for a few harrowing hours. I admit it: I sent no less than eight "Cut him" text messages when I saw Todd Collins. I even sent one saying he should be "Bartman'd". Yeah, I'm telling you: that game made me crack. Thank goodness for distance.
The other benefit of running this a day later and not having to defend Cutler against the meatballs is that this post doesn't have to be about Defending Jay Cutler. This is the obituary, man, and the obituary does not need to waste breath on that shit. Jay Cutler got hurt, and the reason the Bears aren't in the Super Bowl is not because Jay Cutler is a wuss. That's a fact. Here's another: Jay Cutler needs to be better. The sorry thing in the wake of all the jersey burning is that it turned him into a sympathetic figure during a time when he has no business being a sympathetic figure. Bobby tweeted "I begin a long winter, spring, and summer of defending Jay Cutler" and I ask: defend Jay Cutler from what? OK, maybe that came pre-diagnosis, or it's possible that I'm too close-minded to believe the entire world hasn't already universally agreed it's a dead issue at this point. But defend Jay Cutler? Only from the "he shoulda been in there" crowd. Otherwise? No freaking chance.
This game was bigger than a one-on-one quarterback showdown, and it always is. We all love to pretend it's that simple -- guilty as charged -- but, of course, it goes so far beyond that. The fact of the matter, though, is that Sunday was Jay Cutler's Everest. It was a peak he needed to conquer, and it would have changed everything. Simply put, it didn't happen, and that's why we're in this situation. He doesn't catch flack in this spot for lacking courage, he catches it because he isn't that good.
Please, save the scouting report for someone who needs it, and same goes for the spiel about local history. Cutler's tools are evident from outer space, as is this franchise's quarterback woes. Cutler is better than all of them, I know. But what kind of standard is that? Many of us think he's elite, but show me a objective measure that proves it. He threw more interceptions than any quarterback in the league a season ago; this year seven dudes topped him. An improvement, yes, but hardly a tradition worth passing down like an heirloom. 18 quarterbacks had a higher completion percentage than Cutler this year, 12 threw more touchdowns, 15 finished with a higher passer rating.
For the record: of course I would make that trade 100 times out of 100 again, and I'll forever cherish the day it happened. And yes: circumstance goes into everything. The offensive line, while improved, still hovers in D+ territory. A receiver taller than 6-foot and older than 17 wouldn't hurt, either. Same goes for continuity: next season will presumably be the first time in four or five years Cutler gets to work with the same offensive coordinator in consecutive years. All of these things are fact; I have no problem highlighting them. But isn't "circumstance" just a fancy synonym for "excuse"? I just want results, guys. Jay Cutler was alright this year. He can play better. He has to play better. I really think he's up for for the task, for all the reasons listed above. Let's not sugarcoat it, though: this isn't the savior we were promised, at least not yet. I don't think there's anything wrong with realizing that; the tools will never cede and time is on his side. It just needs to be said.
So yes, this is it. Good season, Bears. I mean that. This final loss will linger forever, and treat us like 100 straight bad hair days. They got far, though. They were good. They could be better next year; they could also go 6-10. I want to send out a hearty reminder too that the Bears are cool now. This isn't Wannstedt Era -- they have a GM, and even though he doesn't hit on enough draft picks, he still likes to swing for the stars. Last off-season brought Peppers, the one before brought Cutler. This team is close: closer than they've been in a while. I wouldn't be shocked if there's another big fish on the way, assuming, you know, that there's actually a season. And hey: the NBA could be gone, too. It's a good thing this blog has a name so few can trace the origin of, and a good thing that, even with all of this distance, I still typed the most obvious indie dweeb quote ever in the headline box (Jeez, I'm really losing my edge. I can change. Be someone great. Daft Punk is playing at my house). All I'm saying is that this thing can turn into Odd Future PR at any moment, and none of us need that.
You see, sports are great, even when they're as awful as Sunday. Sometimes you just need a day or two to realize it. You did well, Bears. You were fun. Now go forth, and do better.