In the final days of the BC era, before Jay Cutler became a Bear but his coming was rumored, I had the impression the Denver Broncos were willing to let Cutler go because he wasn't the answer. Yes, he wasn't happy with them; but they weren't that excited about him either, as 8-8 football teams tend not to be about quarterbacks that don't lead them to the playoffs.
But as a Bear, Cutler is the most exciting thing to happen to Chicago since the death of John Dillinger, whose hold on the imagination of the city was so vivid that women gathered at the foot of the alley south of the Biograph theater to dip their hems in his blood.
I was a little surprised to see the Tribune's Bears writer, David Haugh, urging the team earlier this month to get hopping on a new contract for Cutler. "They are going to re-sign Cutler eventually anyway..." Haugh reasoned, "so why not start the process when the team is almost $25 million below the salary cap and he doesn't have all the bargaining power?"
Because, I thought, he's under a three-year contract already, he hasn't played a single down for the Bears, and he might not turn out to be any good. I felt naive to be thinking anything so obvious. Just the day before, Haugh had written of wide receivers speaking "almost in terms of awe" of the experience of catching a pass from Cutler. When was the last time the Bears could boast of a quarterback who awed Bears receivers (not to mention Bears beat reporters)? In the BC era, there were only unanswered prayers.
A few days later, Tribune columnist Rick Morrissey addressed the situation. Morrissey is the sort of grumpy tent mate who passes the roach without taking a hit. Morrissey wondered what the hell was going on. "This is the Summer of Love, or the Summer of Jay, whichever you prefer," he observed. "I have been in this line of work for more than 25 years and I never have seen anything quite like the ado over the Bears' new quarterback. And I covered John Elway for eight seasons. Such unconditional love for Cutler! But enough about the media coverage."
Morrissey reminded his readers that the Broncos, needing a single win to reach the playoffs last year, lost their last three games.
Despite Morrissey's intercession, cooler heads have not prevailed at the Tribune. On Friday, Haugh stepped aside for cultural critic Julia Keller, who posed a metaphysical question: what is the sound of a "magical arm"?
"Can you really hear a great throw?" Keller asked in hem-dipping prose. "Does a football hurled by a great arm sound like a sizzle or a whistle? A whisper or a zing?" She was just wondering, after a practice in which Cutler unleashed "monster throws" that his receivers "caught in stride, with the casual ease of somebody flicking away a fly."
"Flicking away a fly" is perhaps too perfect an image of Bears receivers. Fine writing works on many levels.