PLEASE SHUT UP, JAY CUTLER

While everybody seems to be worrying about things like the economy, their March Madness brackets, and Joe Mauer’s kidney obstruction (okay, maybe not everybody), professional athletes have always done their best to make us stop worrying about the “little things” and start shaking our heads in disgust. Apparently it isn’t enough to make millions of dollars for running around and playing a sport that most of us would play for ten bucks an hour, you’ve got to go and be a whiny baby and stomp your feet and demand things once you’re feelings get hurt.

This past week, we’ve had two wonderful examples of aggravating athletes that have had the crowds of Mile High Stadium roaring in approval. Travis Henry, he of 11 children with 10 different ladies, opened up to the New York Times last week. Apparently he wants a mulligan after realizing he absolutely ruined his life with bad decision making and his decision to apparently link sex to the 90s family film called “Free Wily.” (It certainly isn’t free anymore, Trav…) As Henry put it in the article, “I did use protection at first,” he told the Times. “Then they’d be saying they’d be on the pill. I was an idiot to trust them. Second or third time with them, I didn’t use it. Then, boom!”

Travis Henry is an idiot who owes $170,000 annually in child support. He’s an idiot who lasted less than two years into a new five-year, $25 million contract that he got in 2007 from the Broncos. An idiot who beat the NFL and its iron-clad drug testing policy after he tested positive for marijuana, only to get suspended anyway for missing subsequent test dates. And he’s an idiot for recently getting arresting in connection with a cocaine operation that could get him 10 years to life in a federal penitentiary. He’s been making bad decisions since he was a high school football star, Mr. Florida on the field and Mr. Stupid in life, marrying a 25-year-old woman that became pregnant with his child and deciding to marry her as a college freshman, even though his mother told him it was a terrible idea. Mom finally talked him into an annulment, the only smart decision he’s made in his personal life since.

Yet this story isn’t about Travis Henry. While guys like him will forever drive us crazy, they will always exists — if only to prove that the temptation and pitfalls from instant fame and fortune are real and suffocating. My problem is with his former teammate, a well-educated Vanderbilt graduate whose only real coverage in the mainstream media has been adulation, either for his courageous battle with diabetes, or being the heir to the Denver Broncos throne that has long sat vacant since John Elway retired.

It’s not surprising that Jay Cutler was born in Santa Claus, Indiana. Beginning your life in a place named after a fictional character must’ve subconsciously deluded Cutler from reality at an early age. While he was one of the few bright spots for the Vanderbilt football program while he played four seasons as an SEC doormat, he wasn’t without his character flaws — his suspension for an alleged vandalism incident cost him playing time in 2002. Yet as he exited college among fellow quarterbacks Vince Young and Matt Leinart, Cutler seemed to be the QB with his head on his shoulders, a statement that doesn’t now seem to be heaping much praise at him, after we’ve learned about the immaturity of both Young and Leinart. Yet with cheerleaders like ESPN’s Ron Jaworski and Chris Mortensen touting his arm strength and leadership ability, he was seen by a strong faction to be the best quarterback in the 2006 NFL draft. The Denver Broncos loved their newest quarterback, inking the 11th pick in the draft to a six year contract worth $48 million dollars.

Cutler saw playing time his rookie year, taking over the starting job from Jake Plummer after then head coach Mike Shanahan said that Cutler gave them the best chance to “win now.” He responded by playing above-average football, throwing 9 touchdowns and 5 interceptions in 5 games, and leading people to believe that he was the future of the Denver Broncos.

His second season in the NFL saw Cutler improve his completion percentage to just over 63 percent, but his TD/INT ratio sink to 20/14 and his passer rating flatten to 88.1. The Broncos finished 7-9, out of the playoffs, and Cutler slid slightly above the median for NFL quarterbacks, ranking 12th in passer rating. Yet as just a second year player, many still assumed Cutler was going to make “the leap” and ascend into the rarified air of top-flight quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

2008 was much of the same for Cutler. While he started quickly, looking like the quarterback that many had already annointed, the Broncos collapsed in December, losing their final three games, the last to San Diego in a virtual playoff game in blowout fashion 52-21. Individually, Cutler threw for 25 touchdown passes, yet his interceptions climbed to 18. Moreso, even though he threw an AFC high 616 passes, he was only sacked 11 times. While he was named to the Pro Bowl team (an award that many argue is worthless), his passer rating actually got worse, dropping two points to 86. While he showed promise, Cutler once again was a slightly better than average quarterback.

The point of all of this? To show Jay Cutler for what he is: A slightly above-average quarterback.

His arm strength will always tantalize scouts and personnel executives, but his poor decision making should be just as detrimental. Yet as the Broncos undergo the largest transition in the franchise’s history, Cutler is now publicly pouting because his feelings have been hurt. Aided by the media-hound agent Bus Cook, who still manages to keep Brett Favre’s name in the headlines, Cutler has begun to burn all bridges to Denver, deciding that the Broncos quasi-interest in quarterback Matt Cassel, who played for new head coach Josh McDaniels in New England last season was simply unacceptable. Today, Cutler lit the first match, skipping the new coach’s first team meeting and offseason workout. Broncos spokesman Jim Saccomano told the AP this morning that, “The Denver Broncos confirm that Jay Cutler has requested a trade.”

Pity to hurt Jay’s feelings, but as a business student at Vandy maybe he learned some of the principles that go into improving a business. Like looking at all ways to make your team better, and answering the phone when people try to do business with you, especially for a quarterback that put up better numbers than you did after not playing a significant snap of fotball for almost a decade. Yet now it seems as if Cutler’s days in Denver are done, and he’s willing to hold the team hostage to get what he wants. (And if this whole debacle is for a new contract extension consider Jay Cutler my least favorite NFL quarterback starting tomorrow…)

It’s time to start linking Cutler to fellow players Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens, football players with an inflated sense of worth that people like you and me have long grown tired of watching. While the Broncos have bent over backwards trying to undue the perceived wrong of even considering trading an above-average quarterback, any bit of contrition has fallen on deaf ears in the Cutler camp. If the Broncos can find someone to give them a first-round pick or something close to what the Patriots got for Matt Cassel, I’d sign on the dotted line as quickly as humanly possible. Because like in any organization that goes through a sweeping culture change, you cannot afford to have the face of the franchise being your most vocal dissenter.

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