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Cutler criticism could have been contained by better P.R. effort

NFC Championship Football

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) walks off the field just before the end of the first half of the NFC Championship NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Jan. 23, 2011, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)


As we reluctantly accept the reality that the things said on PFT Live possibly will be missed by those of you who have not yet made PFT Live part of your daily routine, we’ve decided to periodically mention in this space some of the takes that otherwise have been confined only to our new non-radio, non-TV, radio-TV show.

As to the Jay Cutler conundrum, which still has legs (and both MCLs) more than two days later, we outlined our views on the matter during Monday’s PFT Live.

For starters, Cutler’s toughness should not be questioned. The guy played with undiagnosed Type I diabetes in 2007, losing more than 30 pounds and never missing a practice or a game because of it. Unless the team doctor in Denver was Nick Riviera, M.D., Cutler also said or did nothing to prompt the medical staff to think that maybe a simple blood test was in order.

Here, the issue arose from the perception that Cutler wasn’t flustered by his inability to play. And that perception was fueled by televised images of a disinterested player who didn’t seem to be upset about the situation -- and who wasn’t (at least in one image) actively helping Caleb Hanie sift through the information he was feverishly processing while sitting right next to Cutler.

So here’s what should have happened. Once it became apparent that Cutler had a knee injury that likely would keep him from playing again in the game, the P.R. person assigned to the sideline for the game should have gotten word to coach Lovie Smith that the smart move would be to leave Cutler in the locker room and to tell the press box that he would not return. (Or, after he tried to play and couldn’t in the third quarter, Cutler should have been sent to the locker room.)

Sure, Cutler still would have been criticized for disappearing. But that would have happened without FOX being able to broadcast from sea to shining sea images of Cutler looking not obviously injured and obviously not troubled by his predicament.

Would such a maneuver have been unprecedented? Not really. In October, when the Eagles hosted Mike Vick’s former team at a time when Vick was injured and relegated to No. 3 quarterback duties, the Eagles kept Vick in the locker room for the entire game.

Why? Because FOX would have been televising reaction shots of Vick after every good or bad play by Kevin Kolb. And everyone would have been scrutinizing Vick’s demeanor for evidence that he wasn’t properly supporting Kolb in the game against the Falcons.

The goal of P.R. isn’t to simply issue press releases regarding photo opportunities. The P.R. staff should protect and advance the image of the team, the players, the coaches, and the front office.

On Sunday, the Bears’ P.R. staff should have urged coach Lovie Smith to leave Cutler in the locker room for the second half.