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Senior NFL Columnist

Cutler doesn't lack for talent, but until he changes his attitude, he'll never be a winner

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An NFL game is not a high school popularity contest, and an NFL player is not running for class president. I believe that, and you believe that. For 21 of the 22 starting positions on a football field, you don't need Mr. Congeniality to win Mr. Lombardi's trophy.

Except for that 22nd position.

For them, it's different. For them, it is a popularity contest. For them, it isn't enough to be skilled and tough. They have to be skilled, and they have to be tough, but for this one position -- for the quarterback -- he has to be liked.

Jay Cutler is not liked.

And unless he changes, he'll never win a Super Bowl because of it.

Hear me out, please, because that's a massive statement to make about any player, much less a player as good as Cutler, playing for a franchise as prominent as the Bears, in a city as Super Bowl-starved as Chicago. Given all that, I don't make such a statement, such a prediction, lightly.

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But I make it, and I believe it, because Jay Cutler plays the most important position on the field, which makes him the most important player in the locker room ... and people don't like him. More to the point, he doesn't seem to care if people do like him, and I'm not talking about you as a fan or me in the media. Whether you or I like Jay Cutler? Irrelevant. Has nothing to do with his ability to lead his team.

But about that phrase there, "lead his team" ...

Cutler can't do it. Not sincerely, not selflessly, as is required for a franchise quarterback in the NFL -- a position unlike any other. Whether teammates liked Terrell Owens or Warren Sapp or Kyle Turley was immaterial, because teammates don't have to follow a receiver, defensive tackle or offensive lineman.

Teammates have to follow the quarterback.

And who wants to follow Jay Cutler? Who wants to dig down deep -- not just in games, but in practice when the game is won or lost -- when the guy asking them to dig is so detestable? There's a fine line between a good team and a great one in the NFL, and as a leader, Cutler is on the wrong side of it.

This is bigger than the incident with left tackle J'Marcus Webb, who Cutler shoved last Thursday during the Bears' Week 2 loss to the Packers. It was a bad game for J'Marcus Webb, but that was bad leadership by Jay Cutler. Hell, that wasn't leadership at all. That was petulance and self-absorption.

The Webb incident opened a window into the leadership of Jay Cutler, and the view was ugly. Bears cornerback D.J. Moore verbally eviscerated Cutler for his behavior, noting that on a day when Cutler was statistically awful -- 11 for 27 for 126 yards, four interceptions and a 28.2 passer rating -- the Bears quarterback made a scapegoat of an offensive lineman.

"I just think it's wrong, honestly," Moore said. "I would feel some kind of way if he were to do me like that and make it seem like 'Well, the reason that I'm having a bad game is because what you're doing' and not me taking accountability for myself because I'm throwing these types of passes or doing this type of read."

Then Moore turned the knife.

"I think it's just him," he said of Cutler. "It's the type of guy he is."

It's the type of guy he is.

As in, this was no isolated incident. Players are together hours each day, away from cameras and reporters. How do they get along? We really don't know. But here's the thing about Jay Cutler, who pushed a teammate in front of a national television audience:

It's the type of guy he is.

Look, before you dismiss Moore's comments as coming from one random guy who apparently doesn't like Cutler, keep in mind who that one guy is. He's a former fourth-round draft pick under contract only through the end of this season. He doesn't start. Doesn't have any guarantee that he will be brought back next season, which means it's not smart to cross the team's franchise player.

But Moore did. Why do you think he felt safe enough to say what he said about Jay Cutler? I know what I think: He said it because he knows his teammates agree with it. Because that thing with J'Marcus Webb, that wasn't an isolated incident.

It's the type of guy he is.

Not that we need D.J. Moore to tell us the kind of guy Cutler is. We already know. The verdict is in, and he's guilty of being not likeable, not respected, not inspiring. Remember in January 2011 when Cutler was knocked out of a playoff game with a knee injury, and players all over the league mocked him? It doesn't matter that they were wrong, that Cutler's injury was serious enough to keep him out of the game. What mattered is that Cutler hadn't earned the benefit of the doubt from his peers. Why, after five years in the NFL, would that be? Because players talk. Players know.

It's the type of guy he is.

Leadership is enormous at quarterback. Look at Tim Tebow, for God's sake. He can't throw like Cutler, can't read defenses, probably isn't even as fast on his feet. By all accounts, Tebow doesn't have the skill set to play quarterback in the NFL -- but he has that indefinable quality that quarterbacks have to have. Don't ask me what it is, but I saw it last season in Denver, where Tebow won seven of eight starts, then a playoff game. How? The defense was good, sure, but the Broncos were playing over their heads, all over the place, in large part because they were following Tebow. Because they liked him, trusted him, believed in him.

The Bears don't like Cutler. Don't trust him. Don't believe in him.

Or maybe I'm wrong about all of that, biased because I don't like Cutler, don't trust him, don't believe in him. Maybe as I look at Cutler, look at his whiny body language and the disdainful way he talks to others, I refuse to believe teammates could like him, trust him, believe in him.

Maybe I'm appalled that he couldn't even get his apology right for pushing Webb, saying he "probably" shouldn't have done it while noting he would yell at Webb again if need be. Cutler also pointed out that Webb "got beat" and said he was disappointed Webb didn't show more fire, more anger, more something, after that shove. Cutler then blamed the media for making too much out of the whole deal.

Here's what I think: Someday, maybe after his career is over, we're going to hear the real story about Jay Cutler, leader. After Cutler changes teams or retires, former teammates will talk as openly as D.J. Moore talked about Cutler this week. They'll talk about a guy with as much natural ability as almost anyone who has thrown a football. They'll talk about a guy who never won a Super Bowl, never even reached a Super Bowl. They'll explain why that happened, and they'll say something like this:

It's the type of guy he is.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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