Barry Bonds

Rick Reilly gets the “Fire Joe Morgan” treatment

It’s such a great idea that you feel filthy taking it, but I can’t help myself today. It’s Fire Joe Morgan time, and though I’ve refrained from taking a column and ripping it apart line by line, paragraph by sanctimonious paragraph, the time has come. Rick Reilly, the self-anointed moral compass of the sports world, a guy who spent a good portion of his time on Sports Illustrated’s back page trying to convince us that we should all hate Barry Bonds as much as he does, has found a new target. Jay Cutler.

Yes, it’s bottom of the obvious-villain barrel for old Rick, who’s somehow gotten worse as a writer while working for ESPN. Perhaps Reilly’s large contract made him complacent, like so many of the professional athletes he so enjoys bashing. Cutler must not have recognized the Rickster when he strutted into the Bears’ locker room, because now Reilly has a score to settle.

So do I. Now, I understand that Bonds was and is an prickly figure, to put it lightly. I know how he didn’t take part in the team picture, how he treated clubhouse people as servants and spent 20 years either ignoring or intimidating members of the media. I know that Jeff Kent really didn’t like him. I also know that Reilly caused not just Giants fans, but fans of professional journalists who can at least pretend to keep their biases under wraps most of the time, to cancel their Sports Illustrated subscriptions after writing a column in which the first seven paragraphs all started with the phrase, “There are 24 teammates.”

With no further ado, here is Reilly’s latest masterpiece of awfulness, complete with an absolutely horrible title: “Jay Cutler is no teddy bear.” I’m going to help out where I can…

For a man from Santa Claus, Ind., Jay Cutler is one of the least jolly people you’ve ever met.

Christmas was only 18 days before ESPN ran this column. Timely!

If he’s not The Most Hated Man in the NFL, he’s in the running. His expression is usually that of a man wearing sandpaper underwear. He looks everywhere but into your eyes. It’s a tie as to which he enjoys more — smirking or shrugging.

Do you understand what your virtual father, Rick Reilly, is telling you? This little brat shrugs ALL THE TIME! It’s like he doesn’t know if he likes the sandpaper underwear he’s wearing.

It’s hard to say what interests Cutler, but it’s definitely not you.

Hmmm. Could this have to do with Cutler not being interested in talking to you, Rick? Now I get it … Cutler is football’s Barry Bonds!!!

Once, in his rookie year in Denver, 45 minutes before a game, surefire Hall of Fame safety John Lynch was trying to explain something to Cutler about NFL pass coverage. Except Cutler wasn’t looking at Lynch. He was texting.

Now we know who not to give a Hall of Fame vote to. If it were up to Reilly, Lynch and Mike Alstott would get enshrined in the same year.

“Man, I’m trying to talk to you!” Lynch protested.

Reilly left out the part where Lynch stomped his foot.

Didn’t help. Cutler was all thumbs, head down. Finally, Lynch slapped the phone out of Cutler’s hands, smashing it to the floor.

He listened after that.

Wait, is this an article about how much of a dick Cutler is, or Lynch? I’m confused.

One time, Broncos coach Mike Shanahan thought it would be helpful for Cutler and Broncos legend John Elway to have lunch. Let Cutler drink in some of Elway’s experience.

First bit of advice: get an all-pro running back who runs for 5,200 yards over three years.

The three of them sat down at a Denver steak joint. Elway, polite as ever, tried to impart some wisdom. Except Cutler wasn’t looking at Elway. He wasn’t looking at Shanahan, either. He was looking at the TV. The whole time. With his baseball cap on backward. All the way through dessert. Elway did not leave impressed.

Reilly knew Elway was polite, because he was there! Well not exactly, but Elway told Rick just how polite he was! John put his napkin on his lap immediately after sitting down, always said please and thank you, and stood up every time Shanahan got up to use the restroom. Of course, I wouldn’t be able to look at Elway when he’s eating either, with those gigantic horse teeth of his.

So when Josh McDaniels, before he had even set his Samsonite down, started railroading Cutler out of town, almost nobody stood up for him.

And we all know how well that turned out for McDaniels.

Cutler was boxed up and shipped to Chicago, where, this Sunday, he will play his first playoff game of any kind since high school, this one at home against the Seattle Seahawks.

Denver, on the other hand, has soared without the backwards baseball cap wearing, texting shrugger around.

It’s a huge moment for Cutler, if only because his disdain for making nice means everything rides on his wins and losses.

It truly is a tragedy when athletes are judged on their team’s performance.

“In New York, they want to poke you in the eye,” says former Bear and sports radio host Tom Waddle. “In L.A., they don’t care about you. But in Chicago, they want to love you. They want to make a connection with you. Any kind of connection. But Jay doesn’t really care.”

Why won’t he be a fame whore?!?!?! All us Chicagoans want to do is eat at a Jay Cutler Steakhouse, and maybe touch his bangs and smell his musk a little. What an ingrate.

Cutler could own Chicago if he wanted. In a city that has had as many good quarterbacks as Omaha has had good surfers, Cutler could have his name on half the billboards and all the jerseys. My God, the kid grew up a Bears fan! But he doesn’t even try. He has zero endorsements and doesn’t want any. If there is such a thing as a Jay Cutler Fan Club, Cutler is having a membership drive — to drive them out.

The Omaha/surfers line is pure Reilly. Easily understood metaphors to show he’s down with middle America. No elite, “gotcha” media jerk here, Reilly is an everyman! If someone told me that Reilly is Sarah Palin’s speechwriter I wouldn’t even blink. In fact, it would surprise me less than seeing a long-haired hippy driving a Prius in San Francisco!

If you’re a reporter looking for a helpful answer out of Jay Cutler, good luck.

Example from Wednesday’s 15-minute news conference, the only time he speaks publicly the entire workweek:

Reporter #1: So, did you enjoy the week off?

Cutler: Yeah, it’s nice to kick back and watch the games.

Reporter #2: Wait. Last week, you said you never watch the games.

Cutler (disgusted): I said you could watch the games. I didn’t say I watched the games. You’ve got to listen.

Am I the only one who found Cutler’s answer kind of funny? And what helpful answer are you going to get from a question like, “Did you enjoy the week off?” Was he supposed to say, “Actually yes, I talked to my broker and got some great investment advice. If you have five minutes I can explain it to you.”

Cutler is the kind of guy you just want to pick up and throw into a swimming pool, which is exactly what Peyton Manning and two linemen did one year at the Pro Bowl.

Case closed. Cutler is a jerk. Manning is a wise man who has never once made a teammate look bad on national television (cough, cough … Mike Vanderjagt … cough … every receiver who’s ever dropped one of his passes … cough, cough … any lineman who had the misfortune of being within earshot after Manning gets hit by a defensive lineman).

“He’s an arrogant little punk,” former Broncos radio color man, Scott Hastings, once said on a national show. “He’s a little bitch.”

Harsh? Yes. Heard before? Yes.

“I used to hear this kind of stuff a lot,” says Marty Garafalo, a freelance publicist who handled Cutler in Denver. “Elway was always trying to give you the time of day, and Jay was always seeing which door he could get out of quicker. It was a maturity thing.”

Former employees of the Broncos had bad things to say about Cutler? I can’t believe they were available to give Reilly the inside scoop!

Cutler’s teammates will defend him, when asked. “It’s funny to me how people form an opinion of a guy who’ve never even met him,” says Bears tight end Greg Olsen, a close friend.

So what’s the truth?

“He is what he is,” Olsen says.

Not exactly something for your tombstone.

I’m shocked that Cutler’s friend didn’t give Reilly a flowery description, full of great quotes, when Reilly was obviously digging around for information for a column with the singular purpose of RIPPING CUTLER’S PERSONALITY. Surely Reilly’s intentions weren’t transparent.

What he is is an RPG-armed, 27-year-old Vanderbilt product who dates a reality TV star named Kristin Cavallari, battles Type 1 diabetes every day, and doesn’t care who understands him and who doesn’t. He’s a giving person who does things behind the scenes and hates it when he gets found out. A few days before Christmas, he and Cavallari brought presents for an entire ward of sick hospital kids. A reporter for the Sun-Times got wind of it and asked him about it. Cutler refused to discuss it.

That’s the problem with jerks like Cutler and Bonds: they don’t publicize their charity work. Next Rick’s going to tell us how Cutler doesn’t even bitch about getting sacked, unlike that great bastion of teamwork and moral superiority, Peyton Manning.

He’s a battler who’s done amazingly well considering the swinging saloon-door offensive line he has to play behind. The man has been sacked more times this season (52) than in his three seasons in Denver combined (51). Yet he never complains.

He just shrugs and texts. With his baseball cap on backwards too, the punk.

“He’s as sharp an individual as I’ve ever been around,” says Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

But Cutler’s massages pale in comparison to that wonderful shoulder rub Kurt Warner gave Martz 8 years ago in St. Louis.

So why is Cutler as popular as gout?

Actually, gout is “liked” by 622 people on Facebook, so….

Is it because he never makes eye contact?

With Rick Reilly…

Is it his seeming inability to answer a question without using “y’know”? (He once used it 57 times in a five-minute interview with the NFL Network.)

I don’t know why Cutler distrusts the media as much as he does, it’s not like they over-analyze everything he says.

Is it his penchant for making things difficult?

For Rick Reilly…

Reporter (after a game): What happened on that first interception, Jay?

Cutler: I threw the ball.

Reporter: Right, but what did you see developing there? Take us through it.

Cutler (archly): It seemed like a good place to throw the ball.

Reilly would prefer Cutler say, “Gotta look at the film,” apparently.

Then there was this:

Reporter: When you were a kid, which quarterback did you look up to?

Cutler: Nobody.

Reporter: Nobody? You didn’t look up to anybody?

Cutler: No.

If he’s lying, it makes him a miscreant. If he’s telling the truth, it makes him a miscreant.

Wait a minute. If in actuality he idolized Mark Rypien as a kid, he’s a miscreant for not letting us know? And if he didn’t idolize any quarterbacks, that means he’s “a wrongdoer or villain”? I mean, it’s not like he killed dogs for sport/money.

“Deep, deep down, I think he’s a really good guy,” Waddle says.

Maybe. But why do we have to look that deep?

Good point, Rick. Why do we have to actually know someone to know them? Why can’t we be spoonfed a sparkly image of a friendly, good-humored quarterback who really wants you to buy a Sony Bravia?

Translation: Waahhhhh, Cutler won’t answer my questions! Waahhhhh, I don’t even think he knows who I am! I’m Rick Reilly, goddamnit!!! Look into my eyes and experience the wonderous pleasures of answering my leading questions about a column I’ve already written regardless of what you might have to say!

And if you want to read a column that tears Reilly apart in the most satisfying way possible, check out this post from Bob LeGere. Like Dylan, he’s spitting hot fire.

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