Former and current NFL players blast Jay Cutler via Twitter

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) walks off the field after failing to get a first down against the Green Bay Packers during the third quarter of the NFL NFC Championship football game in Chicago, January 23, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Apparently Jay Cutler is about as popular as a rectal exam when it comes to both former and current NFL players.

After leaving the NFC Championship Game early in the third quarter on Sunday, Cutler is being called out for not playing on a hurt knee. Everyone from Maurice Jones Drew to former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Derrick Brooks took to Twitter to blast the Chicago signal caller for his perceived lack of toughness.

From NFL Fanhouse:

“Hey, I think the urban meyer rule is effect right now… When the going gets tough……..QUIT.” Maurice Jones-Drew tweeted during the game. “All I’m saying is that he can finish the game on a hurt knee…I played the whole season on one.”

“FOX HAVEN’T SHOWED ANY TRAINERS LOOKING AT CUTLER, UMMM,” tweeted Derrick Brooks, a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

The rest of us can only make educated guesses. Back to Twitter, this time from Arizona’s Darnell Dockett:

“If I’m on Chicago team jay cutler has to wait till me and the team shower get dressed and leave before he comes in the locker room!”

I’m willing to give Cutler the benefit of the doubt for now. If the guy was hurt and couldn’t play, then he was hurt and couldn’t play. He has taken quite a beating the past two years and his teammates aren’t questioning his toughness, so why should fans at home? He showed a lot of guts last week on his first touchdown run against the Seahawks last weekend and he even had a run against the Packers on Sunday that showed some toughness.

That said, I honestly don’t blame anyone for calling him out. He flat out looked disinterested during the second half and if the MRI that he’s scheduled for on Monday comes back negative, then he won’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to everyone’s criticism of his toughness. The image of Kellen Winslow being helped off the field by two teammates in “The Epic in Miami” is forever burned into our memory. So when a guy leaves a championship game and doesn’t have a torn knee, a concussion or internal bleeding, we’re going to question whether or not he has any stones.

Again, I’m willing to give Cutler the benefit of the doubt. I want to believe that a million dollar athlete wouldn’t voluntarily leave a game when a chance to play in the Super Bowl is on the line. I also don’t think it’s wise to draw conclusions based on assumptions. Some are only assuming that Cutler was healthy enough to play when the only person that knows whether or not he could have stayed in is Jay Cutler.

But for Cutler’s sake, I’m hoping his MCL is torn because if it isn’t, his reputation will suffer much greater damage than his knee ever will.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Fran Tarkenton rips Brett Favre again

Never shy about publicly criticizing Brett Favre, former Vikings’ great Fran Tarkenton took aim at No. 4 after his play in the NFC Championship Game while speaking on sports radio 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia last week.

From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Tarkenton was asked to assess the Vikings’ performance in the NFC title game against New Orleans.

“I think the Vikings were clearly the best team,” Tarkenton said. “They held this New Orleans offense to under 300 yards. They made Drew Brees look ordinary. He didn’t even throw for 200 yards. The guys have been throwing for 400, 500 yards. They were the better team. Their offense turned the ball over five times, the Viking offense. But still if (Favre) didn’t make that stupid play at the end of the game they would have won the game. Now you are in Philadelphia, remember a few years ago when Green Bay played you guys? . . . I mean he throws the ball straight up in the air, free falls. Do you remember that? I have never seen any quarterback much less, well he is going to be a Hall of Fame quarterback, make plays like that at a critical time. He has done the same thing in the Giants’ game (2007 season). He plays at home, has the better team and plays against Eli (Manning). He was a young kid right? And he throws the pick…. and then he does what he did the other night which was just shameful because great quarterbacks, and he is a great quarterback, they don’t do that. You don’t see Peyton Manning do that.”

Tarkenton isn’t looking at the big picture here. Yes, the interception at the end of the game was bad – a rookie mistake even. And yes, the interceptions that Favre threw in previous playoff games were bad, too.

But Tarkenton saying that the Vikings would have won the game had Favre not thrown the interception is shortsighted. There’s a huge possibility that Ryan Longwell would have missed the 50-plus yard field goal had Favre thrown the ball away or ran for four or five yards like many people are suggesting. (By the way, Favre had been abused all game and was playing on a bad ankle, so to say that he could have even run for four or five yards is a little shortsighted in itself.)

The point is that the Vikings didn’t lose the game on Brett’s throw – they lost because they turned the ball over five times. Tarkenton can believe that the Vikings were the better team and maybe they were. But teams that turn the ball over as much as they did don’t usually win and one play doesn’t determine the outcome of a game.

Favre’s decision to throw across his body was stupid – I’ll give Tarkenton that. But to say that the Vikings would have won if only Brett didn’t throw the pick isn’t a statement of fact, but of suggestion.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Five Intriguing Super Bowl Storylines

If anything, the 2008 NFL Season was far from dull. While the Cardinals and Steelers each won their respective divisions to secure playoff berths, neither team was a slum dunk to make it to Tampa at the start of the postseason.

Let’s recap, shall we?

The Steelers entered the playoffs with huge question marks to be answered, most surrounding their offense. In their last regular season game of the year, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was taken off the field strapped to a stretcher after the back of his helmet slammed against the turf following a hit between two defenders. Along with his health, Pittsburgh’s offensive line, although starting to gel in the final month of the season, seemed to be a weakness that defenses like the Titans and Ravens could exploit if they had the opportunity to face the Steelers in the postseason.

So while they ranked first in total defense entering the playoffs, the Steelers had major issues. Yet they steam rolled an overmatched Chargers team in the divisional round, then turned Joe Flacco’s inexperience against him in the AFC Championship Game and now they’re one win away from winning their second Super Bowl title in three years.

Conversely, the Cardinals had a little steeper hill to climb. Although their offense was explosive throughout the season, they played poorly down the stretch and many believed that if they had to go on the road in the playoffs, they would never survive. Not only that, but many pundits also didn’t believe ‘Zona would get past a good running team like the Falcons, who were sure to ride Michael Turner to victory in the opening round.

Thanks to three Atlanta turnovers and a soundly executed game plan to shut down Turner, the Cards beat the Falcons to set up a regular season rematch with the Panthers in the second round. Six Jake Delhomme turnovers later and Arizona was heading to the NFC Championship Game despite everyone and their mother suggesting that they would never be able to win on the road. Then despite the Eagles’ best efforts at a second half comeback, Arizona was able to hang on Sunday to secure a trip to the Super Bowl, which seemed like an improbable task at the start of the playoffs.

Now that the matchup has been set, what do we have to look forward to? Plenty, actually. Below are five storylines that should wet your appetite for the next two weeks before kickoff on February 1.

Read the rest after the jump...

Boldin being labeled as selfish for sideline rant with Haley

During the second half of the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, cameras caught Cardinals’ wide receiver Anquan Boldin in a heated debate with offensive coordinator Todd Haley on the sidelines. According to writer Mike Freeman, Boldin abruptly left the field and locker room after the game without celebrating with his teammates.

Anquan BoldinHe tried to ruin the Super Bowl celebration with his childishness.

In the game, Boldin got into a heated argument with offensive coordinator Todd Haley. After the game, instead of celebrating with his team, Boldin abruptly left the field, then abruptly left the locker room.

It was awful behavior.

Quarterback Kurt Warner also got into an argument with Haley during the game but you didn’t see Warner acting like a petulant child afterwards. He celebrated with his teammates and enjoyed the moment.

I have to say in nearly 20 years of doing this, I’ve never seen a player more concerned about his arguing with a coach over making a Super Bowl.

What Boldin did almost never happens.

Congratulations on making history, Anquan.

According to Haley, Boldin was upset because Steve Breaston replaced him in one of the offensive formations.

Boldin declined comment about it after the game, and Haley called it “a heat of the moment” situation.

“We changed personnel groups out there and I put Steve Breaston in for (Boldin),” Haley said, “and he was upset about it.”

One would have thought the Cards lost the game with how bad Haley was chewed out. (He also got into a smaller debate with Kurt Warner in the first half.)

Boldin’s never been a me-first player so he deserves a break from the national media on this one. But no matter how upset he was, there was no excuse not to celebrate with his teammates. Reaching the Super Bowl should be a momentous occasion in a player’s career. Instead, Boldin has voiced his displeasure several times this year, mainly because of his contract situation and now because he was pulled from a game.

Settle down, Anquan. Your team just made the Super Bowl and will need you. Your contract situation will get worked out after the season. Play ball until then.

Six Pack of Observations: Cardinals heading to the Super Bowl

Here are six quick-hit observations from the Cardinals’ 32-25 win over the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.

1. Just keep doubting them – the Cardinals will just keep winning.
Let’s run through everything the Cardinals weren’t supposed to do this postseason, shall we? They weren’t supposed to stop Michael Turner or beat the Falcons in the first round. They weren’t supposed to win on the road or stop the Panthers’ dynamic running game in the second round. And then even when they did accomplish those things, they weren’t supposed to beat the Eagles because Philadelphia would finally pressure Kurt Warner like he hadn’t been the previous two weeks. Yet the Cardinals did beat Philly on Sunday, and they did so even though adversity stopped by in the third quarter and smacked them square in the mouth. (More on that next.)

2. The Cardinals did something Sunday that they hadn’t done much of all season – battle adversity.
When the Eagles scored a go ahead touchdown with just over 10 minutes remaining in the game to take a 25-24 lead in front of a stunned Arizona crowd, the Cardinals could have easily crumpled in the final quarter. Philadelphia had just scored 19 points in a matter of nine minutes, were starting to pressure Warner with more ease and had seized all momentum. But the Cards answered with a 14-play, 72-yard drive that took 12:07 off the clock and culminated in a Tim Hightower 8-yard touchdown run. They added the 2-point conversation on a pass reception by Ben Patrick and even though there was still plenty of time left on the clock at 2:53, you got the impression that the Eagles were cooked. Granted, ‘Zona benefited from a non-pass interference call on a 4th and 10 attempt to Kevin Curtis on the final drive, but the Cards had already capitalized on the most pivotal moment in the game by taking the Eagles’ best shot and answering back.

3. The Eagles only played 19 minutes of this game…
…had they played the entire game, they probably would have won. Something that got overlooked by many pundits in the week leading up to the contest was that this was the third straight road game for Philadelphia. It’s hard to win on the road as it is, nevertheless three straight weeks. It’s why most sixth seeds don’t make it to the Super Bowl. That said, had the Eagles played the entire game as well as they did in the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth, they would have won. Granted, that’s an obvious statement since they scored 13 points and limited the Cardinals to –1 yard of total offense in that third period – but look deeper. In that third quarter, Jim Johnson finally was able to dial up the right pressure on Kurt Warner, Andy Reid was finally able to get the tired Arizona defense on their heels and Donovan McNabb finally was hitting receivers in stride and striking for big plays. (None bigger than DeSean Jackson’s wild 62-yard touchdown reception early in the fourth.) The Eagles essentially only executed their game plan for 19 minutes of this game and yes, the Cardinals had a lot to do with that. But Philadelphia also got in its own way more times than not by dropping passes, failing to execute Johnson’s blitzes and McNabb misfiring on a handful of passes. Were the Eagles tired? They didn’t necessarily show it if they were, but don’t overlook the fact that this team had to do a lot just to make the playoffs and then a lot just to get to Glendale on Sunday. And that could have factored into how they played.

4. Larry Fitzgerald.
What else can one say that hasn’t already been said? He’s amazing, spectacular – exceptional. With all due respect to the Texans’ Andre Johnson, Fitz is the best receiver in the NFL and the adjustment he made on Kurt Warner’s under throw on a 62-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter was incredible. He’s one of the few receivers in the league that consistently goes up to get the ball at its highest point and never lets it get to his body. He’s the best.

5. Who the hell is Brent Celek?
Non-Eagle fans go ahead and raise your hand if you knew who Celek was before the game. I knew who he was, but I had no idea he could be a game-changer. The second-year tight end out of Cincinnati was the perfect complement to DeSean Jackson and Kevin Curtis in that he worked the seams and gave Donovan McNabb a solid, reliable target the entire game. He also freed Jackson and Curtis up by clearing out the Cardinal safeties, which had to adjust to him being a legitimate target as the game wore on. What a game by the youngster who has no doubt made Eagle fans forget L.J. Smith.

6. How can you not love Adrian Wilson?
Because the Cardinals have been bad for so long, Wilson has often been known as just an underrated playmaker on a brutal defense. But now that the Cards are heading to the Super Bowl, general football fans can start to appreciate just how good the eight-year veteran is – and how loyal. When Wilson was set to become a free agent at the end of the 2004 season, he could have signed with numerous teams dying for a playmaking safety and a natural born leader. But as Joe Buck and Troy Akiman noted during the broadcast, Wilson never contemplated signing with another team and reached a modest five-year, $21 million contract with the Cards. Now he’s being rewarded for his contributions to Arizona’s franchise by having the opportunity to play in the Super Bowl. If you can’t root for a guy like that than you won’t be able to root for anybody.

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