In a playoff game against the Colts in 1965, Bart Starr threw a pass on the first play from scrimmage, it was fumbled and returned for a touchdown, and he injured his ribs while trying to make the tackle. He did not take another snap at quarterback, but he did continue to hold for placekicks.
His star counterpart for the Colts, Johnny Unitas, had been knocked out with a knee injury a few weeks earlier, and his backup, Gary Cuozzo, was hurt in the final regular season game. For the rest of the game, halfback Tom Matte of the Colts and 34-year old journeyman Zeke Bratkowski of the Packers played at quarterback in a playoff game to determine the Western Division champ. The Packers eventually won in sudden death overtime, 13-10. (and yes, that is one of the nine playoff wins credited to Bart Starr in the numbers you will see over the next few weeks).
Could you imagine the reaction if that happened on Sunday, able to hold on kicks but not being able to play quarterback? Plenty of quarterbacks have played with rib injuries. I bet we could find some former players with advanced medical degrees who would tell us that they were able to play with a similar injury.
My point is not to compare Cutler to Starr, or to impugn Starr in what had to be a painful injury. This shouldn’t be about whether we like Jay Cutler or a referendum on what we think of him as a player. Quarterbacks do get hurt–often-in the playoffs, and I could literally find you dozens of games where multiple quarterbacks played, and many were not because the QB was pulled. Every injury is different. Because one person has an injury to a similar body part doesn’t mean the injuries are equal. We don’t know. We don’t diagnose injuries from television screens.
Twitter is an interesting phenomenon. News travels fast, and you can find interesting commentary and quick exchange of ideas. It also lends to a mob mentality as comments build on each other. It’s like a school yard full of bullies with no teacher rushing in to break it up. Here’s a montage put together by SI of some player comments. I’m not nearly as tough as these guys, and I would never question anyone who didn’t quite play a full season on a bad knee when their team was in position to win a division (Jones-Drew), or was once put on IR for a virus (Schlereth), or who can’t go two quarters without missing a game with injury (Gradkowski). See, I can minimize injuries and make them sound bad for a one sentence joke, even though I know these were all legitimate injuries. 99% of players in the NFL play tough and through pain as long as they can, and as long as it doesn’t hurt the team. Glass houses, stones, people. They still break on Twitter.
Jay Cutler played through a ton of sacks and hits this year, and got pummeled at times. He apparently hurt his MCL before the half. He tried it out to start the half, and was pretty clearly unable to make even a basic throw that bounced short of the running back. I can understand why the Bears would sit him if they knew about the injury that we were not privy to (I just can’t understand why Todd Collins is on a roster ahead of Caleb Hanie).
He couldn’t go, and I’m sorry your feelings were hurt that he didn’t roll around enough and act like a drama queen. I’m sorry if your best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with the girl who saw someone once play the rest of the game with an MCL injury. And don’t tell me that quarterbacks must play in big games even if they are hurt, painting all injuries with a broad brush. And don’t blaspheme the name of Bart Starr, all you haters, as if it was just a rib injury, by claiming that any real football player would have played unless they had to carry him off. I’m sure it was way worse than that one hurt rib or sore knee you had once.
[photo via Getty]