Dan Hampton-Jim McMahon feud best thing to ever happen to Jay Cutler
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A good feud is strong enough to tow an ocean liner. The one between Dan Hampton and Jim McMahon is even stronger. It can bestow four Super Bowl rings upon Jay Cutler.
Over the weekend, Hampton told a crowd that if Cutler had been the quarterback when he was playing, the Bears would have won four titles.
I’ll have whatever Hamp is having.
His comments at a Pro Football Hall of Fame event likely were more of a shot at McMahon, Hampton’s teammate on the 1985 champion Bears, than they were a compliment to Cutler. Hampton has never been shy about expressing his dislike for McMahon, whose history of injury and mouthiness did not endear him to the Hall of Fame defensive lineman.
But Hampton also was a big flag-waver for Cutler, who he thought got a bad rap from media and fans in Chicago. He sang the quarterback’s praises when we were together on a preseason Bears panel last year. He also predicted the Bears would win 10 games in 2016. Where’s the laughing-so-hard-I’m-crying emoji?
I really, really don’t want to be drawn into criticizing Cutler for the 1,000th time, but I’ll find it hard to live with myself if I let Hampton’s remarks go uncontested.
Cutler couldn’t have won four titles at anything.
There, I feel better.
A habit of making bad mistakes at the worst times was his fatal flaw. It wasn’t coincidence or bad luck. It was him, as much as his arms, legs and lungs were him. That never would have translated into Super Bowl titles, plural, no matter how good his teammates were.
Hampton saw in Cutler what everybody else saw: an athletic quarterback with a big arm. He also saw what a good number of people talked themselves into seeing: a quarterback who was talented enough to lead the Bears to their first Super Bowl title since 1985, provided the franchise surrounded him with enough talent.
At last year’s discussion, the panel and the audience agreed to disagree about Cutler, with my side agreeing that whatever the other side was seeing could be solved by a trip to the eye doctor.
The city is still having the same debate. Even after he finished with a 51-51 record as a Bears starter. Even after the Bears released him in March and no NFL team wanted him as a starter. Even after he retired and repaired to the broadcast booth.
That’s frustrating, but if you look at it a certain way, maybe tilt your head just right, you might see it as special. Cutler’s enduring ability to generate debate is his legacy. He’s gone, yet large groups of people still line up to argue loudly about his worth. And they’ll be arguing 10 years from now. That’s amazing.
What can’t be argued is the dislike between Hampton and McMahon. Let the record show that Hampton was actually being relatively nice to McMahon in his recent comments. Here’s what he had to say about Cutler in 2015:
“I would have gave anything to have him on our team. You give us Jay Cutler back in our day, not only do we win five Super Bowls in a row, but we don’t lose a game. Mark that down. If we had Jay Cutler — forget the Super Bowl. We don’t lose a game.”
See? Nothing about an undefeated Jay in his most recent comments. And one fewer Super Bowl title than what he had carved out for Cutler in 2015. Looks like an olive branch to me.
Hampton’s comments two years ago elicited this Twitter response from McMahon:
“ha I think he shld go bck & play he’s got a lot to say mayb he shld coach cutler lmao’’
If you’re looking for a good radio sports-talk topic, the kind the yappers turn to when they’re tired of gushing over Anthony Rizzo’s excellent Win Probability Added, discuss whether the 1985 Bears would have won the Super Bowl with Cutler as their quarterback. Or, better, whether the Bears’ defense would have killed Cutler before he could have done permanent damage to their chances.
Cutler wouldn’t have lasted a season with Hampton, Walter Payton, Steve McMichael and Mike Singletary because of the aforementioned fatal flaw, the one that led him to do the wrong thing at the exact wrong time. All the Bears needed in the ’80s was a good game manager at quarterback, one who could stay within the boundaries of the game plan and not make damaging mistakes. Also, one who could stay healthy (hello, Punky QB).
Am I wrong?
I’ll hang up and listen to your answer.
Follow me on Twitter @MorrisseyCST.