You try that [screaming] with a pineapple down your windpipe. Monty Python's Flying Circus, Ep. 4: Owl Stretching Time, "Self Defence"
Jay Cutler

Jay Cutler (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, User: Mike Shadle)

I'm no big Jay Cutler fan.  He throws off of his back foot; he holds on to the ball too long and too often when the defense is about to smash his face into the turf; he doesn't tuck the fucking ball when he rushes.

But Cutler is a pretty good quarterback.  In fact, about twenty teams in this league don't have a quarterback of his caliber, and what Jay did this season is impressive in its own right because he did it all with a pineapple down his windpipe.  The guy was sacked 52 times and played 15 regular season games, missing only one due to a concussion.  He was absolutely leveled a number of times and got back up, took the next snap, and played football.  One need only recall that disastrous game against the New York Giants that saw Cutler sacked nine times to know that he's not a quarterback who lies down on the job.

What follows is a back-of-the-envelope comparison of statistics.  There are other relevant numbers you could bring up; and there is certainly a discussion to be had if the numbers I've come up with really mean anything at all, but just for fun, let's take a look at how the quarterbacks who have been sacked at least fifty times in a season have fared over the last ten years:

Player Year Team Sacked QB Rating Record
Aaron Rodgers 2009 GNB 50 103.2 11-5
Ben Roethlisberger 2009 PIT 50 100.5 9-7
Jay Cutler 2010 CHI 52 86.3 11-5
Drew Bledsoe 2002 BUF 54 86.0 8-8
Mark Brunell 2001 JAX 57 84.1 6-10
Mark Brunell 2000 JAX 54 84.0 7-9
Jon Kitna 2007 DET 51 80.9 7-9
Jon Kitna 2006 DET 63 79.9 3-13
Steve Beuerlein 2000 CAR 62 79.7 7-9
Tim Couch 2001 CLE 51 73.1 7-9
David Carr 2005 HOU 68 69.5 2-14
David Carr 2002 HOU 76 62.8 4-12
SOURCE: Pro-Football-Reference.com

This is sorted by QB Rating—highest to lowest—and you'll see that Cutler's season ranks third.  Sure, he's actually at the high end of average on this list, but he ties Aaron Rodgers for having led his team to the best record: 11-5.  Even if we take away the Bears' questionable wins against the Lions and the Packers, Cutler would fall into a tie for second with Ben Roethlisberger at 9-7.

(On a side note, look at David Carr's rookie season in 2002 with the Houston Texans.  Seventy-six sacks.  What a welcome to the NFL.)

Cutler didn't play well in the NFC Championship; but he had a good season, all things considered, and he didn't deserve the backlash he received from fellow players and fans, especially considering that we now know he suffered a sprained MCL.  Lovie Smith and the Bears' medical staff made the decision to pull him, and it was the right one.  Cutler is no less of a football player because of it.

And he's certainly not a quitter.