LAKE FOREST – In the NFL, distractions are as perilous to a team’s success as injuries or turnovers.
So when franchise quarterback Jay Cutler angrily bumped teammate J’Marcus Webb on Thursday – and when D.J. Moore pushed back at Cutler with his words Monday – the Bears flirted with a problem bigger than any playbook.
Until this week, no one in the Bears’ locker room had veered from the company line in regard to their moody quarterback. A bevy of broadcasters and former players ripped Cutler for shoving Webb and screaming at other teammates Thursday, but the Bears’ active players insisted that they fully supported Cutler and vice versa.
Then Moore, a rare voice of candor in a room filled with clichés, spoke up about an hour before the team returned to the outdoor practice fields at Halas Hall. Moore said NFL analysts and former players were justified in criticizing Cutler, who chastised teammates but never held himself publicly accountable for a miserable game that included four interceptions and a woeful 28.2 passer rating.
“I don’t think you can act like that, though,” Moore said of Cutler’s antics. “To make it seem like it’s just my fault or what not, I think it’s just wrong, though, honestly.
“I would feel some kind of way if he was to do me like that, to make it seem like, ‘Well, the reason I’m having a bad game is because [of] what you’re doing and not about me taking accountability for myself because I’m throwing these type of passes and doing these type of reads.’ It’s a tough situation.”
Many others outside the team have agreed, including NFL Network analyst Michael Irvin.
“I start worrying about what kind of leader is he going to be to help pull this team out of this little slump right here,” Irvin said on NFL Network regarding Cutler’s behavior. “[It’s] not just the things that are on the field, because they have talent and at any moment you can get all of that talent together clicking and make it go. But how do you lead that talent?”
The Bears allow Cutler to speak twice a week – typically once on Wednesday and once after games – so the quarterback did not stop to address Moore’s comments after practice. He could do so on his radio show today as part of his paid partnership with WMVP-AM 1000.
Webb also remained tight-lipped, shaking his head and saying nothing as reporters approached him off of the practice field.
That left Bears coach Lovie Smith, who initially sidestepped a question about Cutler bumping Webb.
“Don’t have a take on it,” Smith said. “There are a lot of other things I was more concerned about in that game.”
When told of Moore’s criticism against Cutler, Smith also claimed to be unconcerned.
“D.J. Moore said that? I have no problem with any of our guys [speaking on the record],” Smith said. “I have a problem if a ‘teammate said’ or a ‘source said,’ but if you put your name behind something and you want to voice your opinion, you can voice it.”
Moore voiced his opinion without hesitation. It’s uncertain whether he was called into Smith’s office on the second floor of Halas Hall, but former players have said it’s not uncommon for Smith to sit down with players who stray from a unified message.
Cutler’s failure to share part of the blame bothered Moore, but so did Cutler’s decision to berate Webb in front of dozens of teams, thousands of fans and millions of TV viewers.
“When you act like that, though, with your own teammates on the sideline, it’s just something different that you normally wouldn’t do,” Moore said. “You might say it in the locker room or something, but to do it like he did, that’s something different. I don’t know, it’s just weird.’’
Should someone on the team have spoken to Cutler about his antics?
“The quarterback?” Moore asked rhetorically. “Quarterback, and he makes a lot of money, and he can throw the ball?
“He’ll be all right. He’ll throw a couple passes, and they’ll forget about it next week.”
The Bears sure hope so.