If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past year, it’s that time athletes spend with fans and media is not just “giving back;” it’s an investment. Jay Cutler is learning that the hard way now. His aloof, sometimes dismissive treatment of interviewers and sometimes teammates is now coming back to haunt him in the worst way. When LaDainian Tomlinson left an NFL playoff game in 2008 against the Patriots and sat alone on the sideline behind the dark visor of his helmet, some questioned his character. But that resentment passed, mostly because of LT’s success and popularity in San Diego and around the league. Now, in 2011, Cutler is facing the same situation, having left Sunday's NFC championship game with a knee injury everyone is questioning.
But this scrutiny will not soon lift. A lot of people just don’t like Jay Cutler. He doesn’t seem to make an effort to reach out, and few are reaching out now to him. This is like the lessons we learned from the Tiger Woods fiasco, as a brilliant athlete had trouble redeeming himself in part because he didn’t feel the need to be a friend to the masses. LeBron James got skewered in Cleveland for similar reasons. Jim McMahon got hurt a lot, Bears fans remember, but he’s still beloved today as a brawler who happened to play quarterback. This Bears starter won’t be remembered the same way. Is Cutler seriously hurt? Yes he is; he suffers from a ruptured reputation.