There was a time not too long ago when a professional athlete was primarily judged by their on-field performance, but nowadays, the realm of social media can greatly influence fans' perceptions and opinions of players on their favorite teams. Seeing an athlete, or any public figure for that matter, get in trouble with the law or commit some sort of immoral or unethical act can instantly bring in a guilty verdict in the court of public perception.
Unfortunately, the bad always gets more attention than the good... Community involvement, charitable activities, and clean records can largely go unnoticed. Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler is a prime example. He's never made headlines for late-night escapades, and never been subject to any real amount of scrutiny beyond some on-field mannerisms, yet a large portion of NFL fans choose to hold an unfavorable opinion of him, despite leading a mostly private personal life, and being involved in several philanthropic efforts.
Regardless, Cutler is not part of the cool kids club, and doesn't seem to care whether people vote him Most Congenial in his profession... He wants to win, and holds high standards for himself and those around him. So let's focus on the old-school tradition of judging a player based on his production (and to a degree, his potential).
There's no denying Jay Cutler has a rare combination of intelligence, athletic ability, and competitiveness that should see him elevated among the elite quarterbacks of the NFL (provided he can find stability in a system, and with a decent supporting cast), and NFL fantasy analyst Jason Smith recently made a bold statement regarding Cutler's potential in leading the Chicago Bears offense:
"The Bears would've been in the Super Bowl last season if he stayed healthy. If he gets the Bears to one this season, he cracks the top seven. Yeah, he's really that good, whether you like him or not."
Mentioning his perceived lack of popularity doesn't matter... Smith makes a bold assertion based on Cutler's talent alone, but doesn't make mention of the offensive line or group of wide receivers he had to work with in 2011.
Our questions for you:
1- Do you agree that the Bears could have made it to the Super Bowl last year had Cutler stayed healthy?
2- With an upgraded WR unit, and a hopefully healthier OL, could the Lombardi Trophy be in grasp for the 2012 season?
There's still some work to do for newly-minted GM Phil Emery , and we won't have as complete of an idea as to what this team will look like next season until after the Draft, but at least one analyst thinks big things can happen with Jay Cutler at the helm.
Only time will tell...