It’s been a rough week for Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. Not only did his season come to an abrupt end this past Sunday when he was knocked out of the NFC championship game, but his team was ultimately knocked out of the Super Bowl. On top of that the criticism he received from all quarters for not playing on his injured knee was fast, furious and started before the game was over thanks to social media.

One of the good things about social media is its instantaneous nature, enabling people to get information out to large numbers of people at the click of a button. An unfortunate side effect is that people often send things out to the world before all the evidence is in and once the damage is done, it’s hard to repair as in the case of Jay Cutler’s injury. A large number of people still believe he quit on his team despite the diagnosis of an injury severe enough to have kept him out of the game.

Many current and former NFL players speculated that Cutler had no heart, toughness or commitment to his team. Some saying they would have had to have been dragged off the field to have missed any of their conference championship game. Hyperbole to be sure, but it still stings. Who is to say that Cutler was not the most distressed guy in the stadium and that it was killing him not to be able to be out there, especially after being a big reason they were there in the first place? Appearances don’t always tell the whole story, we’re all wired differently. I’ve worked with some exceptionally productive athletes and business people who have had the outward appearance of being aloof. I have also worked with several athletes and business people that exhibited fire and competitiveness on the outside but refused to do the work necessary to be successful. Don’t judge a book by its cover as my dad used to say.

I was especially taken aback by the notion that he proved that he was not tough because he cried at his locker when confronted with the news that several NFL and former NFL players had tweeted that he tapped out of the game. Some of the toughest players in the league in recent memory like Drew Brees have admitted crying. One of the all-time great Alpha-Males in NFL history Pat Tillman even admitted to being brought to tears during emotionally trying times. We all feel sad when we give what we feel is our best effort and despite doing all we can, we are criticized rather than appreciated.

Don’t forget that Jay Cutler is still just 27-years old either. I certainly was not the man I am today when I was 27-years old, were you? From what I can see, I think Jay has handled this situation quite well. I am especially impressed that he has resisted the temptation to respond to his critics via twitter. I sincerely hope that Jay realizes that trying to control what others think about him, and worse yet worrying about it, is a waste of his time. I always ask my clients that are down after a less than stellar performance, “Can you look in the mirror and honestly tell the person you see there, that you did the best you were capable of doing on that day?” If you can, that’s all that matters and you have nothing to be despondent about.

It’s a fact of life for a quarterback that your faults are overlooked when you win and your strengths are ignored when you lose.  Jay Cutler has dealt with more and overcome more than this before, so I would not bet against him coming back better than ever. Each adversity is an opportunity for growth and I have seen a lot of growth in Jay Cutler since he arrived in the NFL. I suspect if Jay takes advantage of this situation and uses it as a chance to enhance his mental edge, that he will look back on this entire episode as a great stepping stone in his career and life.

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