Coach Lovie Smith has long been adroit at finding motivation in disrespect -- media, public, whoever -- for his teams. He may have been handed something to get Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall fuming and its being provided by none other than NFL players themselves.
Neither Cutler nor Marshall are among the Top 100 players compiled by NFL Network and being revealed in blocks of 10, now down to its final 10.
The motivational fuel here is that its drawn exclusively from voting by current NFL players, so media and fan popularity are factored out.
That should make it arguably the most credible of all the Top-Whatever rankings (one recently listed the top 10 NFL Jerks according to one media member; Im not sure Id like to see the players rating of Top 10 media jerks but thats for another story).
So Cutler, who endured a tsunami of doubt and criticism after his knee injury in the 2010 NFC Championship game, has been dissed again by his peers.
Tim Tebow is on the list (No. 95); Joe Flacco is on the list (74); Cutler is not. Not among the 10 quarterbacks already revealed and not including Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers, presumably in the Top 10.
Cutler may not be a Top-10 quarterback yet. But Tim Tebow?
And Marshall, who ranked No. 61 last year, caught 81 passes for 1,274 yards and 6 TDs last year, is off the list entirely.
Hakeem Nicks is on the list (No. 90). Marshall has never caught fewer than those 81 passes in any of his last five seasons; Nicks has never caught more than 79 in any of his three seasons.
Jordy Nelson is on the list (80). Nelson never caught more than his 68 of last season. He scored 15 TDs in 2011 after three straight years with 2.
But Marshall is not.
Could be that player voting is every bit as a popularity contest as fan voting is, something that Steve McMichael and others have espoused.
So the players conclusion is that there are at least 13 quarterbacks better than Cutler (Tebow, Romo, Flacco, Vick, Rivers, P. Manning, Stafford, Newton, E. Manning, Roethlisberger, plus presumably the Big Three).
Vick is on the list but told a Philadelphia sports station that he considered his No. 70 spot a joke.
Eli Manning hasnt scoffed at his No. 31 ranking but teammate Justin Tuck has, and used the same four-letter word to describe Mannings spot.
Manning was left off the 2011 Top 100 list altogether, so maybe peer disrespect is a mighty motivator.
Best guess is that Lovie Smith will find out with Cutler and Marshall.